Web - Windows - iPhone
In Isfahan Mulla Kazim was beheaded by order of Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, and a horse made to gallop over his corpse, which was then delivered to the flames, while Siyyid Aqa Jan had his ears cut off, and was led by a halter through the streets and bazaars. A month later occurred in that same city the tragedy of the two famous brothers Mirza Muhammad-Hasan and Mirza Muhammad-Husayn, the "twin shining lights," respectively surnamed "Sultanu'sh-Shuhada" (King of Martyrs) and "Mahbubu'sh-Shuhada" (Beloved of Martyrs), who were celebrated for their generosity, trustworthiness, kindliness and piety. Their martyrdom was instigated by the wicked and dishonest Mir Muhammad-Husayn, the Imam-Jum'ih, stigmatized byPage 201
Bahá'u'lláh as the "she-serpent," who, in view of a large debt he had incurred in his transactions with them, schemed to nullify his obligations by denouncing them as Babis, and thereby encompassing their death. Their richly-furnished houses were plundered, even to the trees and flowers in their gardens, all their remaining possessions were confiscated; Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, denounced by Bahá'u'lláh as the "wolf," pronounced their death-sentence; the Zillu's-Sultan ratified the decision, after which they were put in chains, decapitated, dragged to the Maydan-i-Shah, and there exposed to the indignities heaped upon them by a degraded and rapacious populace. "In such wise," Abdu'l-Bahá has written, "was the blood of these two brothers shed that the Christian priest of Julfa cried out, lamented and wept on that day." For several years Bahá'u'lláh in His Tablets continued to make mention of them, to voice His grief over their passing and to extol their virtues.
Mulla Ali Jan was conducted on foot from Mazindaran to Tihran, the hardships of that journey being so severe that his neck was wounded and his body swollen from the waist to the feet. On the day of his martyrdom he asked for water, performed his ablutions, recited his prayers, bestowed a considerable gift of money on his executioner, and was still in the act of prayer when his throat was slit by a dagger, after which his corpse was spat upon, covered with mud, left exposed for three days, and finally hewn to pieces. In Namiq Mulla Ali, converted to the Faith in the days of the Báb, was so severely attacked and his ribs so badly broken with a pick-axe that he died immediately. Mirza Ashraf was slain in Isfahan, his corpse trampled under foot by Shaykh Muhammad Taqiy-i-Najafi, the "son of the wolf," and his pupils, savagely mutilated, and delivered to the mob to be burnt, after which his charred bones were buried beneath the ruins of a wall that was pulled down to cover them.
In Yazd, at the instigation of the mujtahid of that city, and by order of the callous Mahmud Mirza, the Jalalu'd-Dawlih, the governor, a son of Zillu's-Sultan, seven were done to death in a single day in horrible circumstances. The first of these, a twenty-seven year old youth, Ali-Asghar, was strangled, his body delivered into the hands of some Jews who, forcing the dead man's six companions to come with them, dragged the corpse through the streets, surrounded by a mob of people and soldiers beating drums and blowing trumpets, after which, arriving near the Telegraph Office, they beheaded the eighty-five year old Mulla Mihdi and dragged him in the same mannerPage 202
to another quarter of the city, where, in view of a great throng of onlookers, frenzied by the throbbing strains of the music, they executed Aqa Ali in like manner. Proceeding thence to the house of the local mujtahid, and carrying with them the four remaining companions, they cut the throat of Mulla Aliy-i-Sabzivari, who had been addressing the crowd and glorying in his imminent martyrdom, hacked his body to pieces with a spade, while he was still alive, and pounded his skull to a pulp with stones. In another quarter, near the Mihriz gate, they slew Muhammad-Baqir, and afterwards, in the Maydan-i-Khan, as the music grew wilder and drowned the yells of the people, they beheaded the survivors who remained, two brothers in their early twenties, Ali-Asghar and Muhammad-Hasan. The stomach of the latter was ripped open and his heart and liver plucked out, after which his head was impaled on a spear, carried aloft, to the accompaniment of music, through the streets of the city, and suspended on a mulberry tree, and stoned by a great concourse of people. His body was cast before the door of his mother's house, into which women deliberately entered to dance and make merry. Even pieces of their flesh were carried away to be used as a medicament. Finally, the head of Muhammad-Hasan was attached to the lower part of his body and, together with those of the other martyrs, was borne to the outskirts of the city and so viciously pelted with stones that the skulls were broken, whereupon they compelled the Jews to carry the remains and throw them into a pit in the plain of Salsabil. A holiday was declared by the governor for the people, all the shops were closed by his order, the city was illuminated at night, and festivities proclaimed the consummation of one of the most barbarous acts perpetrated in modern times.
Nor were the Jews and the Parsis who had been newly converted to the Faith, and were living, the former in Hamadan, and the latter in Yazd, immune to the assaults of enemies whose fury was exasperated by the evidences of the penetration of the light of the Faith in quarters they had fondly imagined to be beyond its reach. Even in the city of Ishqabad the newly established Shi'ah community, envious of the rising prestige of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh who were living in their midst, instigated two ruffians to assault the seventy-year old Haji Muhammad-Riday-i-Isfahani, whom, in broad day and in the midst of the bazaar, they stabbed in no less than thirty-two places, exposing his liver, lacerating his stomach and tearing open his breast. A military court dispatched by the Czar to Ishqabad established, after prolonged investigation, the guilt of thePage 203
Shi'ahs, sentencing two to death and banishing six others -- a sentence which neither Nasiri'd-Din Shah, nor the ulamas of Tihran, of Mashhad and of Tabriz, who were appealed to, could mitigate, but which the representatives of the aggrieved community, through their magnanimous intercession which greatly surprised the Russian authorities, succeeded in having commuted to a lighter punishment.
Such are some typical examples of the treatment meted out by the adversaries of the Faith to the newly resurgent community of its followers during the period of Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to Akka -- a treatment which it may be truly said testified alternately to "the callousness of the brute and the ingenuity of the fiend."
The "inquisition and appalling tortures," following the attempt on the life of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, had already, in the words of no less eminent an observer than Lord Curzon of Kedleston, imparted to the Faith "a vitality which no other impulse could have secured." This recrudescence of persecution, this fresh outpouring of the blood of martyrs, served to further enliven the roots which that holy Sapling had already struck in its native soil. Careless of the policy of fire and blood which aimed at their annihilation, undismayed by the tragic blows rained upon a Leader so far removed from their midst, uncorrupted by the foul and seditious acts perpetrated by the Arch-Breaker of the Báb's Covenant, the followers of Bahá'u'lláh were multiplying in number and silently gathering the necessary strength that was to enable them, at a later stage, to lift their heads in freedom, and rear the fabric of their institutions.
Soon after his visit to Persia in the autumn of 1889 Lord Curzon of Kedleston wrote, in the course of references designed to dispel the "great confusion" and "error" prevailing "among European and specially English writers" regarding the Faith, that "the Bahá'ís are now believed to comprise nineteen-twentieths of the Bábi persuasion." Count Gobineau, writing as far back as the year 1865, testified as follows: "L'opinion generale est que les Babis sont repandus dans toutes les classes de la population et parmi tous les religionnaires de la Perse, sauf les Nusayris et les Chretiens; mais ce sont surtout les classes eclairees, les hommes pratiquant les sciences du pays, qui sont donnes comme tres suspects. On pense, et avec raison, ce semble, que beaucoup de mullas, et parmi eux des mujtahids considerables, des magistrats d'un rang eleve, des hommes qui occupent a la cour des fonctions importantes et qui approchent de pres la personne du Roi, sont des Babis. D'apres un calcul fait recemment, il y aurait a Tihran cinq milles de ces religionnaires sur une population de quatre-vingtPage 204
milles ames a peu pres." Furthermore: "...Le Babisme a pris une action considerable sur l'intelligence de la nation persane, et, se rependant meme au dela des limites du territoire, il a deborde dans le pachalik de Baghdad, et passe aussi dans l'Inde." And again: "...Un mouvement religieux tout particulier dont l'Asie Centrale, c'est-a-dire la Perse, quelques points de l'Inde et une partie de la Turquie d'Asie, aux environs de Baghdad, est aujourd'hui vivement preoccupee, mouvement remarquable et digne d'etre etudie a tous les titres. Il permet d'assister a des developpements de faits, a des manifestations, a des catastrophes telles que l'on n'est pas habitue a les imaginer ailleurs que dans les temps recules ou se sont produites les grandes religions."
"These changes, however," Lord Curzon, alluding to the Declaration of the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh and the rebellion of Mirza Yahya, has, moreover written, "have in no wise impaired, but appear on the contrary, to have stimulated its propaganda, which has advanced with a rapidity inexplicable to those who can only see therein a crude form of political or even of metaphysical fermentation. The lowest estimate places the present number of Babis in Persia at half a million. I am disposed to think, from conversations with persons well qualified to judge, that the total is nearer one million." "They are to be found," he adds, "in every walk of life, from the ministers and nobles of the Court to the scavenger or the groom, not the least arena of their activity being the Musulman priesthood itself." "From the facts," is another testimony of his, "that Babism in its earliest years found itself in conflict with the civil powers, and that an attempt was made by Babis upon the life of the Shah, it has been wrongly inferred that the movement was political in origin and Nihilist in character... At the present time the Bábis are equally loyal with any other subjects of the Crown. Nor does there appear to be any greater justice in the charges of socialism, communism and immorality that have so freely been levelled at the youthful persuasion ...The only communism known to and recommended by Him (the Báb) was that of the New Testament and the early Christian Church, viz., the sharing of goods in common by members of the Faith, and the exercise of alms-giving, and an ample charity. The charge of immorality seems to have arisen partly from the malignant inventions of opponents, partly from the much greater freedom claimed for women by the Báb, which in the oriental mind is scarcely dissociable from profligacy of conduct." And, finally, the following prognostication from his pen: "If Babism continues to grow at itsPage 205
present rate of progression, a time may conceivably come when it will oust Muhammadanism from the field in Persia. This, I think, it would be unlikely to do, did it appear upon the ground under the flag of a hostile faith. But since its recruits are won from the best soldiers of the garrison whom it is attacking, there is greater reason to believe that it may ultimately prevail."
Bahá'u'lláh's incarceration in the prison-fortress of Akka, the manifold tribulations He endured, the prolonged ordeal to which the community of His followers in Persia was being subjected, did not arrest, nor could they even impede, to the slightest degree, the mighty stream of Divine Revelation, which, without interruption, had been flowing from His pen, and on which the future orientation, the integrity, the expansion and the consolidation of His Faith directly depended. Indeed, in their scope and volume, His writings, during the years of His confinement in the Most Great Prison, surpassed the outpourings of His pen in either Adrianople or Baghdad. More remarkable than the radical transformation in the circumstances of His own life in Akka, more far-reaching in its spiritual consequences than the campaign of repression pursued so relentlessly by the enemies of His Faith in the land of His birth, this unprecedented extension in the range of His writings, during His exile in that Prison, must rank as one of the most vitalizing and fruitful stages in the evolution of His Faith.
The tempestuous winds that swept the Faith at the inception of His ministry and the wintry desolation that marked the beginnings of His prophetic career, soon after His banishment from Tihran, were followed during the latter part of His sojourn in Baghdad, by what may be described as the vernal years of His Mission -- years which witnessed the bursting into visible activity of the forces inherent in that Divine Seed that had lain dormant since the tragic removal of His Forerunner. With His arrival in Adrianople and the proclamation of His Mission the Orb of His Revelation climbed as it were to its zenith, and shone, as witnessed by the style and tone of His writings, in the plenitude of its summer glory. The period of His incarceration in Akka brought with it the ripening of a slowly maturing process, and was a period during which the choicest fruits of that mission were ultimately garnered.
The writings of Bahá'u'lláh during this period, as we survey the vast field which they embrace, seem to fall into three distinct categories. The first comprises those writings which constitute the sequel to the proclamation of His Mission in Adrianople. The secondPage 206
includes the laws and ordinances of His Dispensation, which, for the most part, have been recorded in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, His Most Holy Book. To the third must be assigned those Tablets which partly enunciate and partly reaffirm the fundamental tenets and principles underlying that Dispensation.
The Proclamation of His Mission had been, as already observed, directed particularly to the kings of the earth, who, by virtue of the power and authority they wielded, were invested with a peculiar and inescapable responsibility for the destinies of their subjects. It was to these kings, as well as to the world's religious leaders, who exercised a no less pervasive influence on the mass of their followers, that the Prisoner of Akka directed His appeals, warnings, and exhortations during the first years of His incarceration in that city. "Upon Our arrival at this Prison," He Himself affirms, "We purposed to transmit to the kings the messages of their Lord, the Mighty, the All-Praised. Though We have transmitted to them, in several Tablets, that which We were commanded, yet We do it once again, as a token of God's grace."
To the kings of the earth, both in the East and in the West, both Christian and Muslim, who had already been collectively admonished and warned in the Suriy-i-Muluk revealed in Adrianople, and had been so vehemently summoned by the Báb, in the opening chapter of the Qayyumu'l-Asma', on the very night of the Declaration of His Mission, Bahá'u'lláh, during the darkest days of His confinement in Akka, addressed some of the noblest passages of His Most Holy Book. In these passages He called upon them to take fast hold of the "Most Great Law"; proclaimed Himself to be "the King of Kings" and "the Desire of all Nations"; declared them to be His "vassals" and "emblems of His sovereignty"; disclaimed any intention of laying hands on their kingdoms; bade them forsake their palaces, and hasten to gain admittance into His Kingdom; extolled the king who would arise to aid His Cause as "the very eye of mankind"; and finally arraigned them for the things which had befallen Him at their hands.
In His Tablet to Queen Victoria He, moreover, invites these kings to hold fast to "the Lesser Peace," since they had refused "the Most Great Peace"; exhorts them to be reconciled among themselves, to unite and to reduce their armaments; bids them refrain from laying excessive burdens on their subjects, who, He informs them, are their "wards" and "treasures"; enunciates the principle that should any one among them take up arms against another, all should rise against him;Page 207
and warns them not to deal with Him as the "King of Islam" and his ministers had dealt.
To the Emperor of the French, Napoleon III, the most prominent and influential monarch of his day in the West, designated by Him as the "Chief of Sovereigns," and who, to quote His words, had "cast behind his back" the Tablet revealed for him in Adrianople, He, while a prisoner in the army barracks, addressed a second Tablet and transmitted it through the French agent in Akka. In this He announces the coming of "Him Who is the Unconstrained," whose purpose is to "quicken the world" and unite its peoples; unequivocally asserts that Jesus Christ was the Herald of His Mission; proclaims the fall of "the stars of the firmament of knowledge," who have turned aside from Him; exposes that monarch's insincerity; and clearly prophesies that his kingdom shall be "thrown into confusion," that his "empire shall pass" from his hands, and that "commotions shall seize all the people in that land," unless he arises to help the Cause of God and follow Him Who is His Spirit.
In memorable passages addressed to "the Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics therein" He, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, calls upon them to "adorn the temple of dominion with the ornament of justice and of the fear of God, and its head with the crown of remembrance" of their Lord; declares that "the Promised One" has been made manifest; counsels them to avail themselves of the "Day of God"; and bids them "bind with the hands of justice the broken" and "crush" the "oppressor" with "the rod of the commandments of their Lord, the Ordainer, the All-Wise."
To Nicolaevitch Alexander II, the all-powerful Czar of Russia, He addressed, as He lay a prisoner in the barracks, an Epistle wherein He announces the advent of the promised Father, Whom "the tongue of Isaiah hath extolled," and "with Whose name both the Torah and the Evangel were adorned"; commands him to "arise ... and summon the nations unto God"; warns him to beware lest his sovereignty withhold him from "Him Who is the Supreme Sovereign"; acknowledges the aid extended by his Ambassador in Tihran; and cautions him not to forfeit the station ordained for him by God.
To Queen Victoria He, during that same period, addressed an Epistle in which He calls upon her to incline her ear to the voice of her Lord, the Lord of all mankind; bids her "cast away all that is on earth," and set her heart towards her Lord, the Ancient of Days; asserts that "all that hath been mentioned in the Gospel hath been fulfilled"; assures her that God would reward her for having "forbiddenPage 208
the trading in slaves," were she to follow what has been sent unto her by Him; commends her for having "entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people"; and exhorts them to "regard themselves as the representatives of all that dwell on earth," and to judge between men with "pure justice."
In a celebrated passage addressed to William I, King of Prussia and newly-acclaimed emperor of a unified Germany, He, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, bids the sovereign hearken to His Voice, the Voice of God Himself; warns him to take heed lest his pride debar him from recognizing "the Day-Spring of Divine Revelation," and admonishes him to "remember the one (Napoleon III) whose power transcended" his power, and who "went down to dust in great loss." Furthermore, in that same Book, apostrophizing the "banks of the Rhine," He predicts that "the swords of retribution" would be drawn against them, and that "the lamentations of Berlin" would be raised, though at that time she was "in conspicuous glory."
In another notable passage of that same Book, addressed to Francis-Joseph, the Austrian Emperor and heir of the Holy Roman Empire, Bahá'u'lláh reproves the sovereign for having neglected to inquire about Him in the course of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; takes God to witness that He had found him "clinging unto the Branch and heedless of the Root"; grieves to observe his waywardness; and bids him open his eyes and gaze on "the Light that shineth above this luminous Horizon."
To Ali Pasha, the Grand Vizir of the Sultan of Turkey He addressed, shortly after His arrival in Akka, a second Tablet, in which He reprimands him for his cruelty "that hath made hell to blaze and the Spirit to lament"; recounts his acts of oppression; condemns him as one of those who, from time immemorial, have denounced the Prophets as stirrers of mischief; prophesies his downfall; expatiates on His own sufferings and those of His fellow-exiles; extolls their fortitude and detachment; predicts that God's "wrathful anger" will seize him and his government, that "sedition will be stirred up" in their midst, and that their "dominions will be disrupted"; and affirms that were he to awake, he would abandon all his possessions, and would "choose to abide in one of the dilapidated rooms of this Most Great Prison." In the Lawh-i-Fu'ad, in the course of His reference to the premature death of the Sultan's Foreign Minister, Fu'ad Pasha, He thus confirms His above-mentioned prediction: "Soon will We dismiss the one (Ali Pasha) who was like unto himPage 209
and will lay hold on their Chief (Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz) who ruleth the land, and I, verily, am the Almighty, the All-Compelling."
No less outspoken and emphatic are the messages, some embodied in specific Tablets, others interspersed through His writings, which Bahá'u'lláh addressed to the world's ecclesiastical leaders of all denominations -- messages in which He discloses, clearly and unreservedly, the claims of His Revelation, summons them to heed His call, and denounces, in certain specific cases, their perversity, their extreme arrogance and tyranny.
In immortal passages of His Kitáb-i-Aqdas and other Tablets He bids the entire company of these ecclesiastical leaders to "fear God," to "rein in" their pens, "fling away idle fancies and imaginings, and turn then towards the Horizon of Certitude"; warns them to "weigh not the Book of God (Kitáb-i-Aqdas) with such standards and sciences as are current" amongst them; designates that same Book as the "Unerring Balance established amongst men"; laments over their blindness and waywardness; asserts His superiority in vision, insight, utterance and wisdom; proclaims His innate and God-given knowledge; cautions them not to "shut out the people by yet another veil," after He Himself had "rent the veils asunder"; accuses them of having been "the cause of the repudiation of the Faith in its early days"; and adjures them to "peruse with fairness and justice that which hath been sent down" by Him, and to "nullify not the Truth" with the things they possess.
To Pope Pius IX, the undisputed head of the most powerful Church in Christendom, possessor of both temporal and spiritual authority, He, a Prisoner in the army barracks of the penal-colony of Akka, addressed a most weighty Epistle, in which He announces that "He Who is the Lord of Lords is come overshadowed with clouds," and that "the Word which the Son concealed is made manifest." He, moreover, warns him not to dispute with Him even as the Pharisees of old disputed with Jesus Christ; bids him leave his palaces unto such as desire them, "sell all the embellished ornaments" in his possession, "expend them in the path of God," abandon his kingdom unto the kings, "arise ... amidst the peoples of the earth," and summon them to His Faith. Regarding him as one of the suns of the heaven of God's names, He cautions him to guard himself lest "darkness spread its veils" over him; calls upon him to "exhort the kings" to "deal equitably with men"; and counsels him to walk in the footsteps of his Lord, and follow His example.
To the patriarchs of the Christian Church He issued a specificPage 210
summons in which He proclaims the coming of the Promised One; exhorts them to "fear God" and not to follow "the vain imaginings of the superstitious"; and directs them to lay aside the things they possess and "take fast hold of the Tablet of God by His sovereign power." To the archbishops of that Church He similarly declares that "He Who is the Lord of all men hath appeared," that they are "numbered with the dead," and that great is the blessedness of him who is "stirred by the breeze of God, and hath arisen from amongst the dead in this perspicuous Name." In passages addressed to its bishops He proclaims that "the Everlasting Father calleth aloud between earth and heaven," pronounces them to be the fallen stars of the heaven of His knowledge, and affirms that His body "yearneth for the cross" and His head is "eager for the spear in the path of the All-Merciful." The concourse of Christian priests He bids "leave the bells," and come forth from their churches; exhorts them to "proclaim aloud the Most Great Name among the nations"; assures them that whoever will summon men in His Name will "show forth that which is beyond the power of all that are on earth"; warns them that the "Day of Reckoning hath appeared"; and counsels them to turn with their hearts to their "Lord, the Forgiving, the Generous." In numerous passages addressed to the "concourse of monks" He bids them not to seclude themselves in churches and cloisters, but to occupy themselves with that which will profit their souls and the souls of men; enjoins them to enter into wedlock; and affirms that if they choose to follow Him He will make them heirs of His Kingdom, and that if they transgress against Him, He will, in His long-suffering, endure it patiently.
And finally, in several passages addressed to the entire body of the followers of Jesus Christ He identifies Himself with the "Father" spoken of by Isaiah, with the "Comforter" Whose Covenant He Who is the Spirit (Jesus) had Himself established, and with the "Spirit of Truth" Who will guide them "into all truth"; proclaims His Day to be the Day of God; announces the conjunction of the river Jordan with the "Most Great Ocean"; asserts their heedlessness as well as His own claim to have opened unto them "the gates of the kingdom"; affirms that the promised "Temple" has been built "with the hands of the will" of their Lord, the Mighty, the Bounteous; bids them "rend the veils asunder," and enter in His name His Kingdom; recalls the saying of Jesus to Peter; and assures them that, if they choose to follow Him, He will make them to become "quickeners of mankind."
To the entire body of Muslim ecclesiastics Bahá'u'lláh specifically devoted innumerable passages in His Books and Tablets, wherein He,Page 211
in vehement language, denounces their cruelty; condemns their pride and arrogance; calls upon them to lay aside the things they possess, to hold their peace, and give ear to the words He has spoken; and asserts that, by reason of their deeds, "the exalted station of the people hath been abased, the standard of Islam hath been reversed, and its mighty throne hath fallen." To the "concourse of Persian divines" He more particularly addressed His condemnatory words in which He stigmatizes their deeds, and prophesies that their "glory will be turned into the most wretched abasement," and that they shall behold the punishment which will be inflicted upon them, "as decreed by God, the Ordainer, the All-Wise."
To the Jewish people, He, moreover, announced that the Most Great Law has come, that "the Ancient Beauty ruleth upon the throne of David," Who cries aloud and invokes His Name, that "from Zion hath appeared that which was hidden," and that "from Jerusalem is heard the Voice of God, the One, the Incomparable, the Omniscient."
To the "high priests" of the Zoroastrian Faith He, furthermore, proclaimed that "the Incomparable Friend" is manifest, that He "speaketh that wherein lieth salvation," that "the Hand of Omnipotence is stretched forth from behind the clouds," that the tokens of His majesty and greatness are unveiled; and declared that "no man's acts shall be acceptable in this day unless he forsaketh mankind and all that men possess, and setteth his face towards the Omnipotent One."
Some of the weightiest passages of His Epistle to Queen Victoria are addressed to the members of the British Legislature, the Mother of Parliaments, as well as to the elected representatives of the peoples in other lands. In these He asserts that His purpose is to quicken the world and unite its peoples; refers to the treatment meted out to Him by His enemies; exhorts the legislators to "take counsel together," and to concern themselves only "with that which profiteth mankind"; and affirms that the "sovereign remedy" for the "healing of all the world" is the "union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith," which can "in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled and all-powerful and inspired Physician." He, moreover, in His Most Holy Book, has enjoined the selection of a single language and the adoption of a common script for all on earth to use, an injunction which, when carried out, would, as He Himself affirms in that Book, be one of the signs of the "coming of age of the human race."
No less significant are the words addressed separately by Him to the "people of the Bayan," to the wise men of the world, to its poets, to its men of letters, to its mystics and even to its tradesmen, in whichPage 212
He exhorts them to be attentive to His voice, to recognize His Day, and to follow His bidding.
Such in sum are the salient features of the concluding utterances of that historic Proclamation, the opening notes of which were sounded during the latter part of Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to Adrianople, and which closed during the early years of His incarceration in the prison-fortress of Akka. Kings and emperors, severally and collectively; the chief magistrates of the Republics of the American continent; ministers and ambassadors; the Sovereign Pontiff himself; the Vicar of the Prophet of Islam; the royal Trustee of the Kingdom of the Hidden Imam; the monarchs of Christendom, its patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, priests and monks; the recognized leaders of both the Sunni and Shi'ah sacerdotal orders; the high priests of the Zoroastrian religion; the philosophers, the ecclesiastical leaders, the wise men and the inhabitants of Constantinople -- that proud seat of both the Sultanate and the Caliphate; the entire company of the professed adherents of the Zoroastrian, the Jewish, the Christian and Muslim Faiths; the people of the Bayan; the wise men of the world, its men of letters, its poets, its mystics, its tradesmen, the elected representatives of its peoples; His own countrymen -- all have, at one time or another, in books, Epistles, and Tablets, been brought directly within the purview of the exhortations, the warnings, the appeals, the declarations and the prophecies which constitute the theme of His momentous summons to the leaders of mankind -- a summons which stands unparalleled in the annals of any previous religion, and to which the messages directed by the Prophet of Islam to some of the rulers among His contemporaries alone offer a faint resemblance.
"Never since the beginning of the world," Bahá'u'lláh Himself affirms, "hath the Message been so openly proclaimed." "Each one of them," He, specifically referring to the Tablets addressed by Him to the sovereigns of the earth -- Tablets acclaimed by Abdu'l-Bahá as a "miracle" -- has written, "hath been designated by a special name. The first hath been named 'The Rumbling,' the second 'The Blow,' the third 'The Inevitable,' the fourth 'The Plain,' the fifth 'The Catastrophe,' and the others 'The Stunning Trumpet-Blast,' 'The Near Event,' 'The Great Terror,' 'The Trumpet,' 'The Bugle,' and the like, so that all the peoples of the earth may know, of a certainty, and may witness, with outward and inner eyes, that He Who is the Lord of Names hath prevailed, and will continue to prevail, under all conditions, over all men." The most important of these Tablets, together with the celebrated Suriy-i-Haykal (the Surih of the Temple), He,Page 213
moreover, ordered to be written in the shape of a pentacle, symbolizing the temple of man, and which He identified, when addressing the followers of the Gospel in one of His Tablets, with the "Temple" mentioned by the Prophet Zechariah, and designated as "the resplendent dawning-place of the All-Merciful," and which "the hands of the power of Him Who is the Causer of Causes" had built.
Unique and stupendous as was this Proclamation, it proved to be but a prelude to a still mightier revelation of the creative power of its Author, and to what may well rank as the most signal act of His ministry -- the promulgation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Alluded to in the Kitáb-i-Iqan; the principal repository of that Law which the Prophet Isaiah had anticipated, and which the writer of the Apocalypse had described as the "new heaven" and the "new earth," as "the Tabernacle of God," as the "Holy City," as the "Bride," the "New Jerusalem coming down from God," this "Most Holy Book," whose provisions must remain inviolate for no less than a thousand years, and whose system will embrace the entire planet, may well be regarded as the brightest emanation of the mind of Bahá'u'lláh, as the Mother Book of His Dispensation, and the Charter of His New World Order.
Revealed soon after Bahá'u'lláh had been transferred to the house of Udi Khammar (circa 1873), at a time when He was still encompassed by the tribulations that had afflicted Him, through the acts committed by His enemies and the professed adherents of His Faith, this Book, this treasury enshrining the priceless gems of His Revelation, stands out, by virtue of the principles it inculcates, the administrative institutions it ordains and the function with which it invests the appointed Successor of its Author, unique and incomparable among the world's sacred Scriptures. For, unlike the Old Testament and the Holy Books which preceded it, in which the actual precepts uttered by the Prophet Himself are non-existent; unlike the Gospels, in which the few sayings attributed to Jesus Christ afford no clear guidance regarding the future administration of the affairs of His Faith; unlike even the Qur'an which, though explicit in the laws and ordinances formulated by the Apostle of God, is silent on the all-important subject of the succession, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, revealed from first to last by the Author of the Dispensation Himself, not only preserves for posterity the basic laws and ordinances on which the fabric of His future World Order must rest, but ordains, in addition to the function of interpretation which it confers upon His Successor, the necessary institutions throughPage 214
which the integrity and unity of His Faith can alone be safeguarded.
In this Charter of the future world civilization its Author -- at once the Judge, the Lawgiver, the Unifier and Redeemer of mankind -- announces to the kings of the earth the promulgation of the "Most Great Law"; pronounces them to be His vassals; proclaims Himself the "King of Kings"; disclaims any intention of laying hands on their kingdoms; reserves for Himself the right to "seize and possess the hearts of men"; warns the world's ecclesiastical leaders not to weigh the "Book of God" with such standards as are current amongst them; and affirms that the Book itself is the "Unerring Balance" established amongst men. In it He formally ordains the institution of the "House of Justice," defines its functions, fixes its revenues, and designates its members as the "Men of Justice," the "Deputies of God," the "Trustees of the All-Merciful," alludes to the future Center of His Covenant, and invests Him with the right of interpreting His holy Writ; anticipates by implication the institution of Guardianship; bears witness to the revolutionizing effect of His World Order; enunciates the doctrine of the "Most Great Infallibility" of the Manifestation of God; asserts this infallibility to be the inherent and exclusive right of the Prophet; and rules out the possibility of the appearance of another Manifestation ere the lapse of at least one thousand years.
In this Book He, moreover, prescribes the obligatory prayers; designates the time and period of fasting; prohibits congregational prayer except for the dead; fixes the Qiblih; institutes the Huququ'llah (Right of God); formulates the law of inheritance; ordains the institution of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar; establishes the Nineteen Day Feasts, the Bahá'í festivals and the Intercalary Days; abolishes the institution of priesthood; prohibits slavery, asceticism, mendicancy, monasticism, penance, the use of pulpits and the kissing of hands; prescribes monogamy; condemns cruelty to animals, idleness and sloth, backbiting and calumny; censures divorce; interdicts gambling, the use of opium, wine and other intoxicating drinks; specifies the punishments for murder, arson, adultery and theft; stresses the importance of marriage and lays down its essential conditions; imposes the obligation of engaging in some trade or profession, exalting such occupation to the rank of worship; emphasizes the necessity of providing the means for the education of children; and lays upon every person the duty of writing a testament and of strict obedience to one's government.
Apart from these provisions Bahá'u'lláh exhorts His followers to consort, with amity and concord and without discrimination, withPage 215
the adherents of all religions; warns them to guard against fanaticism, sedition, pride, dispute and contention; inculcates upon them immaculate cleanliness, strict truthfulness, spotless chastity, trustworthiness; hospitality, fidelity, courtesy, forbearance, justice and fairness; counsels them to be "even as the fingers of one hand and the limbs of one body"; calls upon them to arise and serve His Cause; and assures them of His undoubted aid. He, furthermore, dwells upon the instability of human affairs; declares that true liberty consists in man's submission to His commandments; cautions them not to be indulgent in carrying out His statutes; prescribes the twin inseparable duties of recognizing the "Dayspring of God's Revelation" and of observing all the ordinances revealed by Him, neither of which, He affirms, is acceptable without the other.
The significant summons issued to the Presidents of the Republics of the American continent to seize their opportunity in the Day of God and to champion the cause of justice; the injunction to the members of parliaments throughout the world, urging the adoption of a universal script and language; His warnings to William I, the conqueror of Napoleon III; the reproof He administers to Francis Joseph, the Emperor of Austria; His reference to "the lamentations of Berlin" in His apostrophe to "the banks of the Rhine"; His condemnation of "the throne of tyranny" established in Constantinople, and His prediction of the extinction of its "outward splendor" and of the tribulations destined to overtake its inhabitants; the words of cheer and comfort He addresses to His native city, assuring her that God had chosen her to be "the source of the joy of all mankind"; His prophecy that "the voice of the heroes of Khurasan" will be raised in glorification of their Lord; His assertion that men "endued with mighty valor" will be raised up in Kirman who will make mention of Him; and finally, His magnanimous assurance to a perfidious brother who had afflicted Him with such anguish, that an "ever-forgiving, all-bounteous" God would forgive him his iniquities were he only to repent -- all these further enrich the contents of a Book designated by its Author as "the source of true felicity," as the "Unerring Balance," as the "Straight Path" and as the "quickener of mankind."
The laws and ordinances that constitute the major theme of this Book, Bahá'u'lláh, moreover, has specifically characterized as "the breath of life unto all created things," as "the mightiest stronghold," as the "fruits" of His "Tree," as "the highest means for the maintenance of order in the world and the security of its peoples," as "the lamps of His wisdom and loving-providence," as "the sweet smelling savor ofPage 216
His garment," as the "keys" of His "mercy" to His creatures. "This Book," He Himself testifies, "is a heaven which We have adorned with the stars of Our commandments and prohibitions." "Blessed the man," He, moreover, has stated, "who will read it, and ponder the verses sent down in it by God, the Lord of Power, the Almighty. Say, O men! Take hold of it with the hand of resignation... By My life! It hath been sent down in a manner that amazeth the minds of men. Verily, it is My weightiest testimony unto all people, and the proof of the All-Merciful unto all who are in heaven and all who are on earth." And again: "Blessed the palate that savoreth its sweetness, and the perceiving eye that recognizeth that which is treasured therein, and the understanding heart that comprehendeth its allusions and mysteries. By God! Such is the majesty of what hath been revealed therein, and so tremendous the revelation of its veiled allusions that the loins of utterance shake when attempting their description." And finally: "In such a manner hath the Kitáb-i-Aqdas been revealed that it attracteth and embraceth all the divinely appointed Dispensations. Blessed those who peruse it! Blessed those who apprehend it! Blessed those who meditate upon it! Blessed those who ponder its meaning! So vast is its range that it hath encompassed all men ere their recognition of it. Erelong will its sovereign power, its pervasive influence and the greatness of its might be manifested on earth."
The formulation by Bahá'u'lláh, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, of the fundamental laws of His Dispensation was followed, as His Mission drew to a close, by the enunciation of certain precepts and principles which lie at the very core of His Faith, by the reaffirmation of truths He had previously proclaimed, by the elaboration and elucidation of some of the laws He had already laid down, by the revelation of further prophecies and warnings, and by the establishment of subsidiary ordinances designed to supplement the provisions of His Most Holy Book. These were recorded in unnumbered Tablets, which He continued to reveal until the last days of His earthly life, among which the "Ishraqat" (Splendors), the "Bisharat" (Glad Tidings), the "Tarazat" (Ornaments), the "Tajalliyat" (Effulgences), the "Kalimat-i-Firdawsiyyih" (Words of Paradise), the "Lawh-i-Aqdas" (Most Holy Tablet), the "Lawh-i-Dunya" (Tablet of the World), the "Lawh-i-Maqsud" (Tablet of Maqsud), are the most noteworthy. These Tablets -- mighty and final effusions of His indefatigable pen -- must rank among the choicest fruits which His mind has yielded, and mark the consummation of His forty-year-long ministry.
Of the principles enshrined in these Tablets the most vital ofPage 217
them all is the principle of the oneness and wholeness of the human race, which may well be regarded as the hall-mark of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation and the pivot of His teachings. Of such cardinal importance is this principle of unity that it is expressly referred to in the Book of His Covenant, and He unreservedly proclaims it as the central purpose of His Faith. "We, verily," He declares, "have come to unite and weld together all that dwell on earth." "So potent is the light of unity," He further states, "that it can illuminate the whole earth." "At one time," He has written with reference to this central theme of His Revelation, "We spoke in the language of the lawgiver; at another in that of the truth seeker and the mystic, and yet Our supreme purpose and highest wish hath always been to disclose the glory and sublimity of this station." Unity, He states, is the goal that "excelleth every goal" and an aspiration which is "the monarch of all aspirations." "The world," He proclaims, "is but one country, and mankind its citizens." He further affirms that the unification of mankind, the last stage in the evolution of humanity towards maturity is inevitable, that "soon will the present day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead," that "the whole earth is now in a state of pregnancy," that "the day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings." He deplores the defectiveness of the prevailing order, exposes the inadequacy of patriotism as a directing and controlling force in human society, and regards the "love of mankind" and service to its interests as the worthiest and most laudable objects of human endeavor. He, moreover, laments that "the vitality of men's belief in God is dying out in every land," that the "face of the world" is turned towards "waywardness and unbelief"; proclaims religion to be "a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world" and "the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world"; affirms its fundamental purpose to be the promotion of union and concord amongst men; warns lest it be made "a source of dissension, of discord and hatred"; commands that its principles be taught to children in the schools of the world, in a manner that would not be productive of either prejudice or fanaticism; attributes "the waywardness of the ungodly" to the "decline of religion"; and predicts "convulsions" of such severity as to "cause the limbs of mankind to quake."
The principle of collective security He unreservedly urges; recommends the reduction in national armaments; and proclaims as necessaryPage 218
and inevitable the convening of a world gathering at which the kings and rulers of the world will deliberate for the establishment of peace among the nations.
Justice He extols as "the light of men" and their "guardian," as "the revealer of the secrets of the world of being, and the standard-bearer of love and bounty"; declares its radiance to be incomparable; affirms that upon it must depend "the organization of the world and the tranquillity of mankind." He characterizes its "two pillars" -- "reward and punishment" -- as "the sources of life" to the human race; warns the peoples of the world to bestir themselves in anticipation of its advent; and prophesies that, after an interval of great turmoil and grievous injustice, its day-star will shine in its full splendor and glory.
He, furthermore, inculcates the principle of "moderation in all things"; declares that whatsoever, be it "Liberty, civilization and the like," "passeth beyond the limits of moderation" must "exercise a pernicious influence upon men"; observes that western civilization has gravely perturbed and alarmed the peoples of the world; and predicts that the day is approaching when the "flame" of a civilization "carried to excess" "will devour the cities."
Consultation He establishes as one of the fundamental principles of His Faith; describes it as "the lamp of guidance," as "the bestower of understanding," and as one of the two "luminaries" of the "heaven of Divine wisdom." Knowledge, He states, is "as wings to man's life and a ladder for his ascent"; its acquisition He regards as "incumbent upon every one"; considers "arts, crafts and sciences" to be conducive to the exaltation of the world of being; commends the wealth acquired through crafts and professions; acknowledges the indebtedness of the peoples of the world to scientists and craftsmen; and discourages the study of such sciences as are unprofitable to men, and "begin with words and end with words."
The injunction to "consort with all men in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship" He further emphasizes, and recognizes such association to be conducive to "union and concord," which, He affirms, are the establishers of order in the world and the quickeners of nations. The necessity of adopting a universal tongue and script He repeatedly stresses; deplores the waste of time involved in the study of divers languages; affirms that with the adoption of such a language and script the whole earth will be considered as "one city and one land"; and claims to be possessed of the knowledge of both, and ready to impart it to any one who might seek it from Him.
To the trustees of the House of Justice He assigns the duty ofPage 219
legislating on matters not expressly provided in His writings, and promises that God will "inspire them with whatsoever He willeth." The establishment of a constitutional form of government, in which the ideals of republicanism and the majesty of kingship, characterized by Him as "one of the signs of God," are combined, He recommends as a meritorious achievement; urges that special regard be paid to the interests of agriculture; and makes specific reference to "the swiftly appearing newspapers," describes them as "the mirror of the world" and as "an amazing and potent phenomenon," and prescribes to all who are responsible for their production the duty to be sanctified from malice, passion and prejudice, to be just and fair-minded, to be painstaking in their inquiries, and ascertain all the facts in every situation.
The doctrine of the Most Great Infallibility He further elaborates; the obligation laid on His followers to "behave towards the government of the country in which they reside with loyalty, honesty and truthfulness," He reaffirms; the ban imposed upon the waging of holy war and the destruction of books He reemphasizes; and He singles out for special praise men of learning and wisdom, whom He extols as "eyes" to the body of mankind, and as the "greatest gifts" conferred upon the world.
Nor should a review of the outstanding features of Bahá'u'lláh's writings during the latter part of His banishment to Akka fail to include a reference to the Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom), in which He sets forth the fundamentals of true philosophy, or to the Tablet of Visitation revealed in honor of the Imam Husayn, whose praises He celebrates in glowing language; or to the "Questions and Answers" which elucidates the laws and ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; or to the "Lawh-i-Burhan" (Tablet of the Proof) in which the acts perpetrated by Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, surnamed "Dhi'b" (Wolf), and Mir Muhammad-Husayn, the Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan, surnamed "Raqsha" (She-Serpent), are severely condemned; or to the Lawh-i-Karmil (Tablet of Carmel) in which the Author significantly makes mention of "the City of God that hath descended from heaven," and prophesies that "erelong will God sail His Ark" upon that mountain, and "will manifest the people of Baha." Finally, mention must be made of His Epistle to Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi, surnamed "Ibn-i-Dhi'b" (Son of the Wolf), the last outstanding Tablet revealed by the pen of Bahá'u'lláh, in which He calls upon that rapacious priest to repent of his acts, quotes some of the most characteristic and celebrated passages of His own writings, and adduces proofs establishing the validity of His Cause.Page 220
With this book, revealed about one year prior to His ascension, the prodigious achievement as author of a hundred volumes, repositories of the priceless pearls of His Revelation, may be said to have practically terminated -- volumes replete with unnumbered exhortations, revolutionizing principles, world-shaping laws and ordinances, dire warnings and portentous prophecies, with soul-uplifting prayers and meditations, illuminating commentaries and interpretations, impassioned discourses and homilies, all interspersed with either addresses or references to kings, to emperors and to ministers, of both the East and the West, to ecclesiastics of divers denominations, and to leaders in the intellectual, political, literary, mystical, commercial and humanitarian spheres of human activity.
"We, verily," wrote Bahá'u'lláh, surveying, in the evening of His life, from His Most Great Prison, the entire range of this vast and weighty Revelation, "have not fallen short of Our duty to exhort men, and to deliver that whereunto I was bidden by God, the Almighty, the All-Praised." "Is there any excuse," He further has stated, "left for any one in this Revelation? No, by God, the Lord of the Mighty Throne! My signs have encompassed the earth, and my power enveloped all mankind."Page 221
Well nigh half a century had passed since the inception of the Faith. Cradled in adversity, deprived in its infancy of its Herald and Leader, it had been raised from the dust, in which a hostile despot had thrown it, by its second and greatest Luminary Who, despite successive banishments, had, in less than half a century, succeeded in rehabilitating its fortunes, in proclaiming its Message, in enacting its laws and ordinances, in formulating its principles and in ordaining its institutions, and it had just begun to enjoy the sunshine of a prosperity never previously experienced, when suddenly it was robbed of its Author by the Hand of Destiny, its followers were plunged into sorrow and consternation, its repudiators found their declining hopes revive, and its adversaries, political as well as ecclesiastical, began to take heart again.
Already nine months before His ascension Bahá'u'lláh, as attested by Abdu'l-Bahá, had voiced His desire to depart from this world. From that time onward it became increasingly evident, from the tone of His remarks to those who attained His presence, that the close of His earthly life was approaching, though He refrained from mentioning it openly to any one. On the night preceding the eleventh of Shavval 1309 A.H. (May 8, 1892) He contracted a slight fever which, though it mounted the following day, soon after subsided. He continued to grant interviews to certain of the friends and pilgrims, but it soon became evident that He was not well. His fever returned in a more acute form than before, His general condition grew steadily worse, complications ensued which at last culminated in His ascension, at the hour of dawn, on the 2nd of Dhi'l-Qa'dih 1309 A.H. (May 29, 1892), eight hours after sunset, in the 75th year of His age. His spirit, at long last released from the toils of a life crowded with tribulations, had winged its flight to His "other dominions," dominions "whereon the eyes of the people of names have never fallen," and to which the "Luminous Maid," "clad in white," had bidden Him hasten, as described by Himself in the Lawh-i-Ru'ya (Tablet of the Vision), revealed nineteen years previously, on the anniversary of the birth of His Forerunner.Page 222
Six days before He passed away He summoned to His presence, as He lay in bed leaning against one of His sons, the entire company of believers, including several pilgrims, who had assembled in the Mansion, for what proved to be their last audience with Him. "I am well pleased with you all," He gently and affectionately addressed the weeping crowd that gathered about Him. "Ye have rendered many services, and been very assiduous in your labors. Ye have come here every morning and every evening. May God assist you to remain united. May He aid you to exalt the Cause of the Lord of being." To the women, including members of His own family, gathered at His bedside, He addressed similar words of encouragement, definitely assuring them that in a document entrusted by Him to the Most Great Branch He had commended them all to His care.
The news of His ascension was instantly communicated to Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid in a telegram which began with the words "the Sun of Baha has set" and in which the monarch was advised of the intention of interring the sacred remains within the precincts of the Mansion, an arrangement to which he readily assented. Bahá'u'lláh was accordingly laid to rest in the northernmost room of the house which served as a dwelling-place for His son-in-law, the most northerly of the three houses lying to the west of, and adjacent to, the Mansion. His interment took place shortly after sunset, on the very day of His ascension.
The inconsolable Nabil, who had had the privilege of a private audience with Bahá'u'lláh during the days of His illness; whom Abdu'l-Bahá had chosen to select those passages which constitute the text of the Tablet of Visitation now recited in the Most Holy Tomb; and who, in his uncontrollable grief, drowned himself in the sea shortly after the passing of his Beloved, thus describes the agony of those days: "Methinks, the spiritual commotion set up in the world of dust had caused all the worlds of God to tremble.... My inner and outer tongue are powerless to portray the condition we were in.... In the midst of the prevailing confusion a multitude of the inhabitants of Akka and of the neighboring villages, that had thronged the fields surrounding the Mansion, could be seen weeping, beating upon their heads, and crying aloud their grief."
For a full week a vast number of mourners, rich and poor alike, tarried to grieve with the bereaved family, partaking day and night of the food that was lavishly dispensed by its members. Notables, among whom were numbered Shi'ahs, Sunnis, Christians, Jews and Druzes, as well as poets, ulamas and government officials, all joinedPage 223
in lamenting the loss, and in magnifying the virtues and greatness of Bahá'u'lláh, many of them paying to Him their written tributes, in verse and in prose, in both Arabic and Turkish. From cities as far afield as Damascus, Aleppo, Beirut and Cairo similar tributes were received. These glowing testimonials were, without exception, submitted to Abdu'l-Bahá, Who now represented the Cause of the departed Leader, and Whose praises were often mingled in these eulogies with the homage paid to His Father.
And yet these effusive manifestations of sorrow and expressions of praise and of admiration, which the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh had spontaneously evoked among the unbelievers in the Holy Land and the adjoining countries, were but a drop when compared with the ocean of grief and the innumerable evidences of unbounded devotion which, at the hour of the setting of the Sun of Truth, poured forth from the hearts of the countless thousands who had espoused His Cause, and were determined to carry aloft its banner in Persia, India, Russia, Iraq, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt and Syria.
With the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh draws to a close a period which, in many ways, is unparalleled in the world's religious history. The first century of the Bahá'í Era had by now run half its course. An epoch, unsurpassed in its sublimity, its fecundity and duration by any previous Dispensation, and characterized, except for a short interval of three years, by half a century of continuous and progressive Revelation, had terminated. The Message proclaimed by the Báb had yielded its golden fruit. The most momentous, though not the most spectacular phase of the Heroic Age had ended. The Sun of Truth, the world's greatest Luminary, had risen in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, had broken through the clouds which enveloped it in Baghdad, had suffered a momentary eclipse whilst mounting to its zenith in Adrianople and had set finally in Akka, never to reappear ere the lapse of a full millenium. God's newborn Faith, the cynosure of all past Dispensations, had been fully and unreservedly proclaimed. The prophecies announcing its advent had been remarkably fulfilled. Its fundamental laws and cardinal principles, the warp and woof of the fabric of its future World Order, had been clearly enunciated. Its organic relation to, and its attitude towards, the religious systems which preceded it had been unmistakably defined. The primary institutions, within which an embryonic World Order was destined to mature, had been unassailably established. The Covenant designed to safeguard the unity and integrity of its world-embracing system had been irrevocably bequeathed to posterity. The promise of thePage 224
unification of the whole human race, of the inauguration of the Most Great Peace, of the unfoldment of a world civilization, had been incontestably given. The dire warnings, foreshadowing catastrophes destined to befall kings, ecclesiastics, governments and peoples, as a prelude to so glorious a consummation, had been repeatedly uttered. The significant summons to the Chief Magistrates of the New World, forerunner of the Mission with which the North American continent was to be later invested, had been issued. The initial contact with a nation, a descendant of whose royal house was to espouse its Cause ere the expiry of the first Bahá'í century, had been established. The original impulse which, in the course of successive decades, has conferred, and will continue to confer, in the years to come, inestimable benefits of both spiritual and institutional significance upon God's holy mountain, overlooking the Most Great Prison, had been imparted. And finally, the first banners of a spiritual conquest which, ere the termination of that century, was to embrace no less than sixty countries in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres had been triumphantly planted.
In the vastness and diversity of its Holy Writ; in the number of its martyrs; in the valor of its champions; in the example set by its followers; in the condign punishment suffered by its adversaries; in the pervasiveness of its influence; in the incomparable heroism of its Herald; in the dazzling greatness of its Author; in the mysterious operation of its irresistible spirit; the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, now standing at the threshold of the sixth decade of its existence, had amply demonstrated its capacity to forge ahead, indivisible and incorruptible, along the course traced for it by its Founder, and to display, before the gaze of successive generations, the signs and tokens of that celestial potency with which He Himself had so richly endowed it.
To the fate that has overtaken those kings, ministers and ecclesiastics, in the East as well as in the West, who have, at various stages of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry, either deliberately persecuted His Cause, or have neglected to heed the warnings He had uttered, or have failed in their manifest duty to respond to His summons or to accord Him and His message the treatment they deserved, particular attention, I feel, should at this juncture be directed. Bahá'u'lláh Himself, referring to those who had actively arisen to destroy or harm His Faith, had declared that "God hath not blinked, nor will He ever blink His eyes at the tyranny of the oppressor. More particularly in this Revelation hath He visited each and every tyrant with His vengeance." Vast and awful is, indeed, the spectacle which meets ourPage 225
eyes, as we survey the field over which the retributory winds of God have, since the inception of the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh, furiously swept, dethroning monarchs, extinguishing dynasties, uprooting ecclesiastical hierarchies, precipitating wars and revolutions, driving from office princes and ministers, dispossessing the usurper, casting down the tyrant, and chastising the wicked and the rebellious.
Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz, who with Nasiri'd-Din Shah was the author of the calamities heaped upon Bahá'u'lláh, and was himself responsible for three decrees of banishment against the Prophet; who had been stigmatized, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, as occupying the "throne of tyranny," and whose fall had been prophesied in the Lawh-i-Fu'ad, was deposed in consequence of a palace revolution, was condemned by a fatva (sentence) of the Mufti in his own capital, was four days later assassinated (1876), and was succeeded by a nephew who was declared to be an imbecile. The war of 1877-78 emancipated eleven million people from the Turkish yoke; Adrianople was occupied by the Russian forces; the empire itself was dissolved as a result of the war of 1914-18; the Sultanate was abolished; a republic was proclaimed; and a rulership that had endured above six centuries was ended.
The vain and despotic Nasiri'd-Din Shah, denounced by Bahá'u'lláh as the "Prince of Oppressors"; of whom He had written that he would soon be made "an object-lesson for the world"; whose reign was stained by the execution of the Báb and the imprisonment of Bahá'u'lláh; who had persistently instigated his subsequent banishments to Constantinople, Adrianople and Akka; who, in collusion with a vicious sacerdotal order, had vowed to strangle the Faith in its cradle, was dramatically assassinated, in the shrine of Shah Abdu'l-'Azim, on the very eve of his jubilee, which, as ushering in a new era, was to have been celebrated with the most elaborate magnificence, and was to go down in history as the greatest day in the annals of the Persian nation. The fortunes of his house thereafter steadily declined, and finally through the scandalous misconduct of the dissipated and irresponsible Ahmad Shah, led to the eclipse and disappearance of the Qajar dynasty.
Napoleon III, the foremost monarch of his day in the West, excessively ambitious, inordinately proud, tricky and superficial, who is reported to have contemptuously flung down the Tablet sent to him by Bahá'u'lláh, who was tested by Him and found wanting, and whose downfall was explicitly predicted in a subsequent Tablet, was ignominiously defeated in the Battle of Sedan (1870), marking the greatest military capitulation recorded in modern history; lost hisPage 226
kingdom and spent the remaining years of his life in exile. His hopes were utterly blasted, his only son, the Prince Imperial, was killed in the Zulu War, his much vaunted empire collapsed, a civil war ensued more ferocious than the Franco-German war itself, and William I, the Prussian king, was hailed emperor of a unified Germany in the Palace of Versailles.
William I, the pride-intoxicated newly-acclaimed conqueror of Napoleon III, admonished in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and bidden to ponder the fate that had overtaken "one whose power transcended" his own, warned in that same Book, that the "lamentations of Berlin" would be raised and that the banks of the Rhine would be "covered with gore," sustained two attempts on his life, and was succeeded by a son who died of a mortal disease, three months after his accession to the throne, bequeathing the throne to the arrogant, the headstrong and short-sighted William II. The pride of the new monarch precipitated his downfall. Revolution, swiftly and suddenly, broke out in his capital, communism reared its head in a number of cities; the princes of the German states abdicated, and he himself, fleeing ignominiously to Holland, was compelled to relinquish his right to the throne. The constitution of Weimar sealed the fate of the empire, whose birth had been so loudly proclaimed by his grandfather, and the terms of an oppressively severe treaty provoked "the lamentations" which, half a century before, had been ominously prophesied.
The arbitrary and unyielding Francis Joseph, emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, who had been reproved in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, for having neglected his manifest duty to inquire about Bahá'u'lláh during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, was so engulfed by misfortunes and tragedies that his reign came to be regarded as one unsurpassed by any other reign in the calamities it inflicted upon the nation. His brother, Maximilian, was put to death in Mexico; the Crown Prince Rudolph perished in ignominious circumstances; the Empress was assassinated; Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife were murdered in Serajevo; the "ramshackle empire" itself disintegrated, was carved up, and a shrunken republic was set up on the ruins of a vanished Holy Roman Empire -- a republic which, after a brief and precarious existence, was blotted out from the political map of Europe.
Nicolaevitch Alexander II, the all-powerful Czar of Russia, who, in a Tablet addressed to him by name had been thrice warned by Bahá'u'lláh, had been bidden to "summon the nations unto God," and had been cautioned not to allow his sovereignty to prevent himPage 227
from recognizing "the Supreme Sovereign," suffered several attempts on his life, and at last died at the hand of an assassin. A harsh policy of repression, initiated by himself and followed by his successor, Alexander III, paved the way for a revolution which, in the reign of Nicholas II, swept away on a bloody tide the empire of the Czars, brought in its wake war, disease and famine, and established a militant proletariat which massacred the nobility, persecuted the clergy, drove away the intellectuals, disendowed the state religion, executed the Czar with his consort and his family, and extinguished the dynasty of the Romanoffs.
Pope Pius IX, the undisputed head of the most powerful Church in Christendom, who had been commanded, in an Epistle addressed to him by Bahá'u'lláh, to leave his "palaces unto such as desire them," to "sell all the embellished ornaments" in his possession, to "expend them in the path of God," and hasten towards "the Kingdom," was compelled to surrender, in distressing circumstances, to the besieging forces of King Victor Emmanuel, and to submit himself to be depossessed of the Papal States and of Rome itself. The loss of "the Eternal City," over which the Papal flag had flown for one thousand years, and the humiliation of the religious orders under his jurisdiction, added mental anguish to his physical infirmities and embittered the last years of his life. The formal recognition of the Kingdom of Italy subsequently exacted from one of his successors in the Vatican, confirmed the virtual extinction of the Pope's temporal sovereignty.
But the rapid dissolution of the Ottoman, the Napoleonic, the German, the Austrian and the Russian empires, the demise of the Qajar dynasty and the virtual extinction of the temporal sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff do not exhaust the story of the catastrophes that befell the monarchies of the world through the neglect of Bahá'u'lláh's warnings conveyed in the opening passages of His Suriy-i-Muluk. The conversion of the Portuguese and Spanish monarchies, as well as the Chinese empire, into republics; the strange fate that has, more recently, been pursuing the sovereigns of Holland, of Norway, of Greece, of Yugoslavia and of Albania now living in exile; the virtual abdication of the authority exercised by the kings of Denmark, of Belgium, of Bulgaria, of Rumania and of Italy; the apprehension with which their fellow sovereigns must be viewing the convulsions that have seized so many thrones; the shame and acts of violence which, in some instances, have darkened the annals of the reigns of certain monarchs in both the East and the West, and still more recently the sudden downfall of the Founder of the newlyPage 228
established dynasty in Persia -- these are yet further instances of the infliction of the "Divine Chastisement" foreshadowed by Bahá'u'lláh in that immortal Surih, and show forth the divine reality of the arraignment pronounced by Him against the rulers of the earth in His Most Holy Book.
No less arresting has been the extinction of the all-pervasive influence exerted by the Muslim ecclesiastical leaders, both Sunni and Shi'ah, in the two countries in which the mightiest institutions of Islam had been reared, and which have been directly associated with the tribulations heaped upon the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.
The Caliph, the self-styled vicar of the Prophet of Islam, known also as the "Commander of the Faithful," the protector of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, whose spiritual jurisdiction extended over more than two hundred million Muhammadans, was by the abolition of the Sultanate in Turkey, divested of his temporal authority, hitherto regarded as inseparable from his high office. The Caliph himself, after having occupied for a brief period, an anomalous and precarious position, fled to Europe; the Caliphate, the most august and powerful institution of Islam, was, without consultation with any community in the Sunni world, summarily abolished; the unity of the most powerful branch of the Islamic Faith was thereby shattered; a formal, a complete and permanent separation of the Turkish state from the Sunni faith was proclaimed; the Shari'ah canonical Law was annulled; ecclesiastical institutions were disendowed; a civil code was promulgated; religious orders were suppressed; the Sunni hierarchy was dissolved; the Arabic tongue, the language of the Prophet of Islam, fell into disuse, and its script was superseded by the Latin alphabet; the Qur'an itself was translated into Turkish; Constantinople, the "Dome of Islam," sank to the level of a provincial city, and its peerless jewel, the Mosque of St. Sophia, was converted into a museum -- a series of degradations recalling the fate which, in the first century of the Christian Era, befell the Jewish people, the city of Jerusalem, the Temple of Solomon, the Holy of Holies, and an ecclesiastical hierarchy, whose members were the avowed persecutors of the religion of Jesus Christ.
A similar convulsion shook the foundations of the entire sacerdotal order in Persia, though its formal divorce from the Persian state is as yet unproclaimed. A "church-state," that had been firmly rooted in the life of the nation and had extended its ramifications to every sphere of life in that country, was virtually disrupted. A sacerdotal order, the rock wall of Shi'ah Islam in that land, wasPage 229
paralyzed and discredited; its mujtahids, the favorite ministers of the hidden Imam, were reduced to an insignificant number; all its beturbaned officers, except for a handful, were ruthlessly forced to exchange their traditional head-dress and robes for the European clothes they themselves anathematized; the pomp and pageantry that marked their ceremonials vanished; their fatvas (sentences) were nullified; their endowments were handed over to a civil administration; their mosques and seminaries were deserted; the right of sanctuary accorded to their shrines ceased to be recognized; their religious plays were banned; their takyihs were closed and even their pilgrimages to Najaf and Karbila were discouraged and curtailed. The disuse of the veil; the recognition of the equality of sexes; the establishment of civil tribunals; the abolition of concubinage; the disparagement of the use of the Arabic tongue, the language of Islam and of the Qur'an, and the efforts exerted to divorce it from Persian -- all these further proclaim the degradation, and foreshadow the final extinction, of that infamous crew, whose leaders had dared style themselves "servants of the Lord of Saintship" (Imam Ali), who had so often received the homage of the pious kings of the Safavi dynasty, and whose anathemas, ever since the birth of the Faith of the Báb, had been chiefly responsible for the torrents of blood which had been shed, and whose acts have blackened the annals of both their religion and nation.
A crisis, not indeed as severe as that which shook the Islamic sacerdotal orders -- the inveterate adversaries of the Faith -- has, moreover, afflicted the ecclesiastical institutions of Christendom, whose influence, ever since Bahá'u'lláh's summons was issued and His warning was sounded, has visibly deteriorated, whose prestige has been gravely damaged, whose authority has steadily declined, and whose power, rights and prerogatives have been increasingly circumscribed. The virtual extinction of the temporal sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff, to which reference has already been made; the wave of anti-clericalism that brought in its wake the separation of the Catholic Church from the French Republic; the organized assault launched by a triumphant Communist state upon the Greek Orthodox Church in Russia, and the consequent disestablishment, disendowment and persecution of the state religion; the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy which owed its allegiance to the Church of Rome and powerfully supported its institutions; the ordeal to which that same Church has been subjected in Spain and in Mexico; the wave of secularization which, at present, is engulfing the Catholic, thePage 230
Anglican and the Presbyterian Missions in non-Christian lands; the forces of an aggressive paganism which are assailing the ancient citadels of the Catholic, the Greek Orthodox and the Lutheran Churches in Western, in Central and Eastern Europe, in the Balkans and in the Baltic and Scandinavian states -- these stand out as the most conspicuous manifestations of the decline in the fortunes of the ecclesiastical leaders of Christendom, leaders who, heedless of the voice of Bahá'u'lláh, have interposed themselves between the Christ returned in the glory of the Father and their respective congregations.
Nor can we fail to note the progressive deterioration in the authority, wielded by the ecclesiastical leaders of the Jewish and Zoroastrian Faiths, ever since the voice of Bahá'u'lláh was raised, announcing, in no uncertain terms, that the "Most Great Law is come," that the Ancient Beauty "ruleth upon the throne of David," and that "whatsoever hath been announced in the Books (Zoroastrian Holy Writ) hath been revealed and made clear." The evidences of increasing revolt against clerical authority; the disrespect and indifference shown to time-honored observances, rituals and ceremonials; the repeated inroads made by the forces of an aggressive and often hostile nationalism into the spheres of clerical jurisdiction; and the general apathy with which, particularly in the case of the professed adherents of the Zoroastrian Faith, these encroachments are regarded -- all provide, beyond the shadow of a doubt, further justification of the warnings and predictions uttered by Bahá'u'lláh in His historic addresses to the world's ecclesiastical leaders.
Such in sum are the awful evidences of God's retributive justice that have afflicted kings as well as ecclesiastics, in both the East and the West, as a direct consequence of either their active opposition to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, or of their lamentable failure to respond to His call, to inquire into His Message, to avert the sufferings He endured, or to heed the marvelous signs and prodigies which, during a hundred years, have accompanied the birth and rise of His Revelation.
"From two ranks amongst men," is His terse and prophetic utterance, "power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics." "If ye pay no heed," He thus warned the kings of the earth, "unto the counsels which ... We have revealed in this Tablet, Divine chastisement will assail you from every direction... On that day ye shall ... recognize your own impotence." And again: "Though aware of most of Our afflictions, ye, nevertheless, have failed to stay the hand of the aggressor." And, furthermore, this arraignment: "...We ... willPage 231
be patient, as We have been patient in that which hath befallen Us at your hands, O concourse of kings!"
Condemning specifically the world's ecclesiastical leaders, He has written: "The source and origin of tyranny have been the divines... God, verily, is clear of them, and We, too, are clear of them." "When We observed carefully," He openly affirms, "We discovered that Our enemies are, for the most part, the divines." "O concourse of divines!" He thus addresses them, "Ye shall not henceforth behold yourselves possessed of any power, inasmuch as We have seized it from you..." "Had ye believed in God when He revealed Himself," He explains, "the people would not have turned aside from Him, nor would the things ye witness today have befallen Us." "They," referring more specifically to Muslim ecclesiastics, He asserts, "rose up against Us with such cruelty as hath sapped the strength of Islam..." "The divines of Persia," He affirms, "committed that which no people amongst the peoples of the world hath committed." And again: "...The divines of Persia ... have perpetrated what the Jews have not perpetrated during the Revelation of Him Who is the Spirit (Jesus)." And finally, these portentous prophecies: "Because of you the people were abased, and the banner of Islam was hauled down, and its mighty throne subverted." "Erelong will all that ye possess perish, and your glory be turned into the most wretched abasement, and ye shall behold the punishment for what ye have wrought..." "Erelong," the Báb Himself, even more openly prophesies, "We will, in very truth, torment such as waged war against Husayn (Imam Husayn) ... with the most afflictive torment..." "Erelong will God wreak His vengeance upon them, at the time of Our return, and He hath, in very truth, prepared for them, in the world to come, a severe torment."
Nor should, in a review of this nature, reference be omitted to those princes, ministers and ecclesiastics who have individually been responsible for the afflictive trials which Bahá'u'lláh and His followers have suffered. Fu'ad Pasha, the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, denounced by Him as the "instigator" of His banishment to the Most Great Prison, who had so assiduously striven with his colleague Ali Pasha, to excite the fears and suspicions of a despot already predisposed against the Faith and its Leader, was, about a year after he had succeeded in executing his design, struck down, while on a trip to Paris, by the avenging rod of God, and died at Nice (1869). Ali Pasha, the Sadr-i-A'zam (Prime Minister), denounced in such forceful language in the Lawh-i-Ra'is, whose downfall the Lawh-i-Fu'adPage 232
had unmistakably predicted, was, a few years after Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to Akka, dismissed from office, was shorn of all power, and sank into complete oblivion. The tyrannical Prince Mas'ud Mirza, the Zillu's-Sultan, Nasiri'd-Din Shah's eldest son and ruler over more than two-fifths of his kingdom, stigmatized by Bahá'u'lláh as "the Infernal Tree," fell into disgrace, was deprived of all his governorships, except that of Isfahan, and lost all chances of future eminence or promotion. The rapacious Prince Jalalu'd-Dawlih, branded by the Supreme Pen as "the tyrant of Yazd," was, about a year after the iniquities he had perpetrated, deprived of his post, recalled to Tihran, and forced to return a part of the property he had stolen from his victims.
The scheming, the ambitious and profligate Mirza Buzurg Khan, the Persian Consul General in Baghdad, was eventually dismissed from office, "overwhelmed with disaster, filled with remorse and plunged into confusion." The notorious Mujtahid Siyyid Sadiq-i-Tabataba'i, denounced by Bahá'u'lláh as "the Liar of Tihran," the author of the monstrous decree condemning every male member of the Bahá'í community in Persia, young or old, high or low, to be put to death, and all its women to be deported, was suddenly taken ill, fell a prey to a disease that ravaged his heart, his brain and his limbs, and precipitated eventually his death. The high-handed Subhi Pasha, who had peremptorily summoned Bahá'u'lláh to the government house in Akka, lost the position he occupied, and was recalled under circumstances highly detrimental to his reputation. Nor were the other governors of the city, who had dealt unjustly with the exalted Prisoner in their charge and His fellow-exiles, spared a like fate. "Every pasha," testifies Nabil in his narrative, "whose conduct in Akka was commendable enjoyed a long term of office, and was bountifully favored by God, whereas every hostile Mutisarrif (governor) was speedily deposed by the Hand of Divine power, even as Abdu'r-Rahman Pasha and Muhammad-Yusuf Pasha who, on the morrow of the very night they had resolved to lay hands on the loved ones of Bahá'u'lláh, were telegraphically advised of their dismissal. Such was their fate that they were never again given a position."
Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, surnamed the "Wolf," who, in the strongly condemnatory Lawh-i-Burhan addressed to him by Bahá'u'lláh, had been compared to "the last trace of sunlight upon the mountain-top," witnessed the steady decline of his prestige, and died in a miserable state of acute remorse. His accomplice, Mir Muhammad-Husayn, surnamed the "She-Serpent," whom Bahá'u'lláh describedPage 233
as one "infinitely more wicked than the oppressor of Karbila," was, about that same time, expelled from Isfahan, wandered from village to village, contracted a disease that engendered so foul an odor that even his wife and daughter could not bear to approach him, and died in such ill-favor with the local authorities that no one dared to attend his funeral, his corpse being ignominiously interred by a few porters.
Mention should, moreover, be made of the devastating famine which, about a year after the illustrious Badi' had been tortured to death, ravaged Persia and reduced the population to such extremities that even the rich went hungry, and hundreds of mothers ghoulishly devoured their own children.
Nor can this subject be dismissed without special reference being made to the Arch-Breaker of the Covenant of the Báb, Mirza Yahya, who lived long enough to witness, while eking out a miserable existence in Cyprus, termed by the Turks "the Island of Satan," every hope he had so maliciously conceived reduced to naught. A pensioner first of the Turkish and later of the British Government, he was subjected to the further humiliation of having his application for British citizenship refused. Eleven of the eighteen "Witnesses" he had appointed forsook him and turned in repentance to Bahá'u'lláh. He himself became involved in a scandal which besmirched his reputation and that of his eldest son, deprived that son and his descendants of the successorship with which he had previously invested him, and appointed, in his stead, the perfidious Mirza Hadiy-i-Dawlat-Abadi, a notorious Azali, who, on the occasion of the martyrdom of the aforementioned Mirza Ashraf, was seized with such fear that during four consecutive days he proclaimed from the pulpit-top, and in a most vituperative language, his complete repudiation of the Bábi Faith, as well as of Mirza Yahya, his benefactor, who had reposed in him such implicit confidence. It was this same eldest son who, through the workings of a strange destiny, sought years after, together with his nephew and niece, the presence of Abdu'l-Bahá, the appointed Successor of Bahá'u'lláh and Center of His Covenant, expressed repentance, prayed for forgiveness, was graciously accepted by Him, and remained, till the hour of his death, a loyal follower of the Faith which his father had so foolishly, so shamelessly and so pitifully striven to extinguish.Page 234
I have in the preceding chapters endeavored to trace the rise and progress of the Faith associated with the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh during the first fifty years of its existence. If I have dwelt too long on the events connected with the life and mission of these twin Luminaries of the Bahá'í Revelation, if I have at times indulged in too circumstantial a narrative of certain episodes related to their ministries, it is solely because these happenings proclaim the birth, and signalize the establishment, of an epoch which future historians will acclaim as the most heroic, the most tragic and the most momentous period in the Apostolic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation. Indeed the tale which the subsequent decades of the century under review unfold to our eyes is but the record of the manifold evidences of the resistless operation of those creative forces which the revolution of fifty years of almost uninterrupted Revelation had released.
A dynamic process, divinely propelled, possessed of undreamt-of potentialities, world-embracing in scope, world-transforming in its ultimate consequences, had been set in motion on that memorable night when the Báb communicated the purpose of His mission to Mulla Husayn in an obscure corner of Shiraz. It acquired a tremendous momentum with the first intimations of Bahá'u'lláh's dawning Revelation amidst the darkness of the Siyah-Chal of Tihran. It was further accelerated by the Declaration of His mission on the eve of His banishment from Baghdad. It moved to a climax with the proclamation of that same mission during the tempestuous years of His exile in Adrianople. Its full significance was disclosed when the Author of that Mission issued His historic summonses, appeals and warnings to the kings of the earth and the world's ecclesiastical leaders. It was finally consummated by the laws and ordinances which He formulated, by the principles which He enunciated and by the institutions which He ordained during the concluding years of His ministry in the prison-city of Akka.
To direct and canalize these forces let loose by this Heaven-sent process, and to insure their harmonious and continuous operation after His ascension, an instrument divinely ordained, invested withPage 238
indisputable authority, organically linked with the Author of the Revelation Himself, was clearly indispensable. That instrument Bahá'u'lláh had expressly provided through the institution of the Covenant, an institution which He had firmly established prior to His ascension. This same Covenant He had anticipated in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, had alluded to it as He bade His last farewell to the members of His family, who had been summoned to His bed-side, in the days immediately preceding His ascension, and had incorporated it in a special document which He designated as "the Book of My Covenant," and which He entrusted, during His last illness, to His eldest son Abdu'l-Bahá.
Written entirely in His own hand; unsealed, on the ninth day after His ascension in the presence of nine witnesses chosen from amongst His companions and members of His Family; read subsequently, on the afternoon of that same day, before a large company assembled in His Most Holy Tomb, including His sons, some of the Báb's kinsmen, pilgrims and resident believers, this unique and epoch-making Document, designated by Bahá'u'lláh as His "Most Great Tablet," and alluded to by Him as the "Crimson Book" in His "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf," can find no parallel in the Scriptures of any previous Dispensation, not excluding that of the Báb Himself. For nowhere in the books pertaining to any of the world's religious systems, not even among the writings of the Author of the Bábi Revelation, do we find any single document establishing a Covenant endowed with an authority comparable to the Covenant which Bahá'u'lláh had Himself instituted.
"So firm and mighty is this Covenant," He Who is its appointed Center has affirmed, "that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like." "It is indubitably clear," He, furthermore, has stated, "that the pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant." "Know thou," He has written, "that the 'Sure Handle' mentioned from the foundation of the world in the Books, the Tablets and the Scriptures of old is naught else but the Covenant and the Testament." And again: "The lamp of the Covenant is the light of the world, and the words traced by the Pen of the Most High a limitless ocean." "The Lord, the All-Glorified," He has moreover declared, "hath, beneath the shade of the Tree of Anisa (Tree of Life), made a new Covenant and established a great Testament... Hath such a Covenant been established in any previous Dispensation, age, period or century? Hath such a Testament, set down by the Pen of the MostPage 239
High, ever been witnessed? No, by God!" And finally: "The power of the Covenant is as the heat of the sun which quickeneth and promoteth the development of all created things on earth. The light of the Covenant, in like manner, is the educator of the minds, the spirits, the hearts and souls of men." To this same Covenant He has in His writings referred as the "Conclusive Testimony," the "Universal Balance," the "Magnet of God's grace," the "Upraised Standard," the "Irrefutable Testament," "the all-mighty Covenant, the like of which the sacred Dispensations of the past have never witnessed" and "one of the distinctive features of this most mighty cycle."
Extolled by the writer of the Apocalypse as "the Ark of His (God) Testament"; associated with the gathering beneath the "Tree of Anisa" (Tree of Life) mentioned by Bahá'u'lláh in the Hidden Words; glorified by Him, in other passages of His writings, as the "Ark of Salvation" and as "the Cord stretched betwixt the earth and the Abha Kingdom," this Covenant has been bequeathed to posterity in a Will and Testament which, together with the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and several Tablets, in which the rank and station of Abdu'l-Bahá are unequivocally disclosed, constitute the chief buttresses designed by the Lord of the Covenant Himself to shield and support, after His ascension, the appointed Center of His Faith and the Delineator of its future institutions.
In this weighty and incomparable Document its Author discloses the character of that "excellent and priceless heritage" bequeathed by Him to His "heirs"; proclaims afresh the fundamental purpose of His Revelation; enjoins the "peoples of the world" to hold fast to that which will "elevate" their "station"; announces to them that "God hath forgiven what is past"; stresses the sublimity of man's station; discloses the primary aim of the Faith of God; directs the faithful to pray for the welfare of the kings of the earth, "the manifestations of the power, and the daysprings of the might and riches, of God"; invests them with the rulership of the earth; singles out as His special domain the hearts of men; forbids categorically strife and contention; commands His followers to aid those rulers who are "adorned with the ornament of equity and justice"; and directs, in particular, the Aghsan (His sons) to ponder the "mighty force and the consummate power that lieth concealed in the world of being." He bids them, moreover, together with the Afnan (the Báb's kindred) and His own relatives, to "turn, one and all, unto the Most Great Branch (Abdu'l-Bahá)"; identifies Him with "the One Whom God hath purposed," "Who hath branched from this pre-existent Root," referred to in thePage 240
Kitáb-i-Aqdas; ordains the station of the "Greater Branch" (Mirza Muhammad-'Ali) to be beneath that of the "Most Great Branch" (Abdu'l-Bahá); exhorts the believers to treat the Aghsan with consideration and affection; counsels them to respect His family and relatives, as well as the kindred of the Báb; denies His sons "any right to the property of others"; enjoins on them, on His kindred and on that of the Báb to "fear God, to do that which is meet and seemly" and to follow the things that will "exalt" their station; warns all men not to allow "the means of order to be made the cause of confusion, and the instrument of union an occasion for discord"; and concludes with an exhortation calling upon the faithful to "serve all nations," and to strive for the "betterment of the world."
That such a unique and sublime station should have been conferred upon Abdu'l-Bahá did not, and indeed could not, surprise those exiled companions who had for so long been privileged to observe His life and conduct, nor the pilgrims who had been brought, however fleetingly, into personal contact with Him, nor indeed the vast concourse of the faithful who, in distant lands, had grown to revere His name and to appreciate His labors, nor even the wide circle of His friends and acquaintances who, in the Holy Land and the adjoining countries, were already well familiar with the position He had occupied during the lifetime of His Father.
He it was Whose auspicious birth occurred on that never-to-be-forgotten night when the Báb laid bare the transcendental character of His Mission to His first disciple Mulla Husayn. He it was Who, as a mere child, seated on the lap of Tahirih, had registered the thrilling significance of the stirring challenge which that indomitable heroine had addressed to her fellow-disciple, the erudite and far-famed Vahid. He it was Whose tender soul had been seared with the ineffaceable vision of a Father, haggard, dishevelled, freighted with chains, on the occasion of a visit, as a boy of nine, to the Siyah-Chal of Tihran. Against Him, in His early childhood, whilst His Father lay a prisoner in that dungeon, had been directed the malice of a mob of street urchins who pelted Him with stones, vilified Him and overwhelmed Him with ridicule. His had been the lot to share with His Father, soon after His release from imprisonment, the rigors and miseries of a cruel banishment from His native land, and the trials which culminated in His enforced withdrawal to the mountains of Kurdistan. He it was Who, in His inconsolable grief at His separation from an adored Father, had confided to Nabil, as attested by him in his narrative, that He felt Himself to have grown old though stillPage 241
but a child of tender years. His had been the unique distinction of recognizing, while still in His childhood, the full glory of His Father's as yet unrevealed station, a recognition which had impelled Him to throw Himself at His feet and to spontaneously implore the privilege of laying down His life for His sake. From His pen, while still in His adolescence in Baghdad, had issued that superb commentary on a well-known Muhammadan tradition, written at the suggestion of Bahá'u'lláh, in answer to a request made by Ali-Shawkat Pasha, which was so illuminating as to excite the unbounded admiration of its recipient. It was His discussions and discourses with the learned doctors with whom He came in contact in Baghdad that first aroused that general admiration for Him and for His knowledge which was steadily to increase as the circle of His acquaintances was widened, at a later date, first in Adrianople and then in Akka. It was to Him that the highly accomplished Khurshid Pasha, the governor of Adrianople, had been moved to pay a public and glowing tribute when, in the presence of a number of distinguished divines of that city, his youthful Guest had, briefly and amazingly, resolved the intricacies of a problem that had baffled the minds of the assembled company -- an achievement that affected so deeply the Pasha that from that time onwards he could hardly reconcile himself to that Youth's absence from such gatherings.
On Him Bahá'u'lláh, as the scope and influence of His Mission extended, had been led to place an ever greater degree of reliance, by appointing Him, on numerous occasions, as His deputy, by enabling Him to plead His Cause before the public, by assigning Him the task of transcribing His Tablets, by allowing Him to assume the responsibility of shielding Him from His enemies, and by investing Him with the function of watching over and promoting the interests of His fellow-exiles and companions. He it was Who had been commissioned to undertake, as soon as circumstances might permit, the delicate and all-important task of purchasing the site that was to serve as the permanent resting-place of the Báb, of insuring the safe transfer of His remains to the Holy Land, and of erecting for Him a befitting sepulcher on Mt. Carmel. He it was Who had been chiefly instrumental in providing the necessary means for Bahá'u'lláh's release from His nine-year confinement within the city walls of Akka, and in enabling Him to enjoy, in the evening of His life, a measure of that peace and security from which He had so long been debarred. It was through His unremitting efforts that the illustrious Badi' had been granted his memorable interviews with Bahá'u'lláh, that the hostilityPage 242
evinced by several governors of Akka towards the exiled community had been transmuted into esteem and admiration, that the purchase of properties adjoining the Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan had been effected, and that the ablest and most valuable presentation of the early history of the Faith and of its tenets had been transmitted to posterity. It was through the extraordinarily warm reception accorded Him during His visit to Beirut, through His contact with Midhat Pasha, a former Grand Vizir of Turkey, through His friendship with Aziz Pasha, whom He had previously known in Adrianople, and who had subsequently been promoted to the rank of Vali, and through His constant association with officials, notables and leading ecclesiastics who, in increasing number had besought His presence, during the final years of His Father's ministry, that He had succeeded in raising the prestige of the Cause He had championed to a level it had never previously attained.
He alone had been accorded the privilege of being called "the Master," an honor from which His Father had strictly excluded all His other sons. Upon Him that loving and unerring Father had chosen to confer the unique title of "Sirru'llah" (the Mystery of God), a designation so appropriate to One Who, though essentially human and holding a station radically and fundamentally different from that occupied by Bahá'u'lláh and His Forerunner, could still claim to be the perfect Exemplar of His Faith, to be endowed with super-human knowledge, and to be regarded as the stainless mirror reflecting His light. To Him, whilst in Adrianople, that same Father had, in the Suriy-i-Ghusn (Tablet of the Branch), referred as "this sacred and glorious Being, this Branch of Holiness," as "the Limb of the Law of God," as His "most great favor" unto men, as His "most perfect bounty" conferred upon them, as One through Whom "every mouldering bone is quickened," declaring that "whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God," and that "they who deprive themselves of the shadow of the Branch are lost in the wilderness of error." To Him He, whilst still in that city, had alluded (in a Tablet addressed to Haji Muhammad Ibrahim-i-Khalil) as the one amongst His sons "from Whose tongue God will cause the signs of His power to stream forth," and as the one Whom "God hath specially chosen for His Cause." On Him, at a later period, the Author of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, in a celebrated passage, subsequently elucidated in the "Book of My Covenant," had bestowed the function of interpreting His Holy Writ, proclaiming Him, at the same time, to be the One "Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root."Page 243
To Him in a Tablet, revealed during that same period and addressed to Mirza Muhammad Quliy-i-Sabzivari, He had referred as "the Gulf that hath branched out of this Ocean that hath encompassed all created things," and bidden His followers to turn their faces towards it. To Him, on the occasion of His visit to Beirut, His Father had, furthermore, in a communication which He dictated to His amanuensis, paid a glowing tribute, glorifying Him as the One "round Whom all names revolve," as "the Most Mighty Branch of God," and as "His ancient and immutable Mystery." He it was Who, in several Tablets which Bahá'u'lláh Himself had penned, had been personally addressed as "the Apple of Mine eye," and been referred to as "a shield unto all who are in heaven and on earth," as "a shelter for all mankind" and "a stronghold for whosoever hath believed in God." It was on His behalf that His Father, in a prayer revealed in His honor, had supplicated God to "render Him victorious," and to "ordain ... for Him, as well as for them that love Him," the things destined by the Almighty for His "Messengers" and the "Trustees" of His Revelation. And finally in yet another Tablet these weighty words had been recorded: "The glory of God rest upon Thee, and upon whosoever serveth Thee and circleth around Thee. Woe, great woe, betide him that opposeth and injureth Thee. Well is it with him that sweareth fealty to Thee; the fire of hell torment him who is Thy enemy."
And now to crown the inestimable honors, privileges and benefits showered upon Him, in ever increasing abundance, throughout the forty years of His Father's ministry in Baghdad, in Adrianople and in Akka, He had been elevated to the high office of Center of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, and been made the successor of the Manifestation of God Himself -- a position that was to empower Him to impart an extraordinary impetus to the international expansion of His Father's Faith, to amplify its doctrine, to beat down every barrier that would obstruct its march, and to call into being, and delineate the features of, its Administrative Order, the Child of the Covenant, and the Harbinger of that World Order whose establishment must needs signalize the advent of the Golden Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation.Page 244
The immediate effect of the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh had been, as already observed, to spread grief and bewilderment among his followers and companions, and to inspire its vigilant and redoubtable adversaries with fresh hope and renewed determination. At a time when a grievously traduced Faith had triumphantly emerged from the two severest crises it had ever known, one the work of enemies without, the other the work of enemies within, when its prestige had risen to a height unequalled in any period during its fifty-year existence, the unerring Hand which had shaped its destiny ever since its inception was suddenly removed, leaving a gap which friend and foe alike believed could never again be filled.
Yet, as the appointed Center of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and the authorized Interpreter of His teaching had Himself later explained, the dissolution of the tabernacle wherein the soul of the Manifestation of God had chosen temporarily to abide signalized its release from the restrictions which an earthly life had, of necessity, imposed upon it. Its influence no longer circumscribed by any physical limitations, its radiance no longer beclouded by its human temple, that soul could henceforth energize the whole world to a degree unapproached at any stage in the course of its existence on this planet.
Bahá'u'lláh's stupendous task on this earthly plane had, moreover, at the time of His passing, been brought to its final consummation. His mission, far from being in any way inconclusive, had, in every respect, been carried through to a full end. The Message with which He had been entrusted had been disclosed to the gaze of all mankind. The summons He had been commissioned to issue to its leaders and rulers had been fearlessly voiced. The fundamentals of the doctrine destined to recreate its life, heal its sicknesses and redeem it from bondage and degradation had been impregnably established. The tide of calamity that was to purge and fortify the sinews of His Faith had swept on with unstemmed fury. The blood which was to fertilize the soil out of which the institutions of His World Order were destined to spring had been profusely shed. Above all the Covenant that was to perpetuate the influence of that Faith, insurePage 245
its integrity, safeguard it from schism, and stimulate its world-wide expansion, had been fixed on an inviolable basis.
His Cause, precious beyond the dreams and hopes of men; enshrining within its shell that pearl of great price to which the world, since its foundation, had been looking forward; confronted with colossal tasks of unimaginable complexity and urgency, was beyond a peradventure in safe keeping. His own beloved Son, the apple of His eye, His vicegerent on earth, the Executive of His authority, the Pivot of His Covenant, the Shepherd of His flock, the Exemplar of His faith, the Image of His perfections, the Mystery of His Revelation, the Interpreter of His mind, the Architect of His World Order, the Ensign of His Most Great Peace, the Focal Point of His unerring guidance -- in a word, the occupant of an office without peer or equal in the entire field of religious history -- stood guard over it, alert, fearless and determined to enlarge its limits, blazon abroad its fame, champion its interests and consummate its purpose.
The stirring proclamation Abdu'l-Bahá had penned, addressed to the rank and file of the followers of His Father, on the morrow of His ascension, as well as the prophecies He Himself had uttered in His Tablets, breathed a resolve and a confidence which the fruits garnered and the triumphs achieved in the course of a thirty-year ministry have abundantly justified.
The cloud of despondency that had momentarily settled on the disconsolate lovers of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh was lifted. The continuity of that unerring guidance vouchsafed to it since its birth was now assured. The significance of the solemn affirmation that this is "the Day which shall not be followed by night" was now clearly apprehended. An orphan community had recognized in Abdu'l-Bahá, in its hour of desperate need, its Solace, its Guide, its Mainstay and Champion. The Light that had glowed with such dazzling brightness in the heart of Asia, and had, in the lifetime of Bahá'u'lláh, spread to the Near East, and illuminated the fringes of both the European and African continents, was to travel, through the impelling influence of the newly proclaimed Covenant, and almost immediately after the death of its Author, as far West as the North American continent, and from thence diffuse itself to the countries of Europe, and subsequently shed its radiance over both the Far East and Australasia.
Before the Faith, however, could plant its banner in the midmost heart of the North American continent, and from thence establish its outposts over so vast a portion of the Western world, the newly born Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh had, as had been the case with thePage 246
Faith that had given it birth, to be baptized with a fire which was to demonstrate its solidity and proclaim its indestructibility to an unbelieving world. A crisis, almost as severe as that which had assailed the Faith in its earliest infancy in Baghdad, was to shake that Covenant to its foundations at the very moment of its inception, and subject afresh the Cause of which it was the noblest fruit to one of the most grievous ordeals experienced in the course of an entire century.
This crisis, misconceived as a schism, which political as well as ecclesiastical adversaries, no less than the fast dwindling remnant of the followers of Mirza Yahya hailed as a signal for the immediate disruption and final dissolution of the system established by Bahá'u'lláh, was precipitated at the very heart and center of His Faith, and was provoked by no one less than a member of His own family, a half-brother of Abdu'l-Bahá, specifically named in the book of the Covenant, and holding a rank second to none except Him Who had been appointed as the Center of that Covenant. For no less than four years that emergency fiercely agitated the minds and hearts of a vast proportion of the faithful throughout the East, eclipsed, for a time, the Orb of the Covenant, created an irreparable breach within the ranks of Bahá'u'lláh's own kindred, sealed ultimately the fate of the great majority of the members of His family, and gravely damaged the prestige, though it never succeeded in causing a permanent cleavage in the structure, of the Faith itself. The true ground of this crisis was the burning, the uncontrollable, the soul-festering jealousy which the admitted preeminence of Abdu'l-Bahá in rank, power, ability, knowledge and virtue, above all the other members of His Father's family, had aroused not only in Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the archbreaker of the Covenant, but in some of his closest relatives as well. An envy as blind as that which had possessed the soul of Mirza Yahya, as deadly as that which the superior excellence of Joseph had kindled in the hearts of his brothers, as deep-seated as that which had blazed in the bosom of Cain and prompted him to slay his brother Abel, had, for several years, prior to Bahá'u'lláh's ascension, been smouldering in the recesses of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's heart and had been secretly inflamed by those unnumbered marks of distinction, of admiration and favor accorded to Abdu'l-Bahá not only by Bahá'u'lláh Himself, His companions and His followers, but by the vast number of unbelievers who had come to recognize that innate greatness which Abdu'l-Bahá had manifested from childhood.
Far from being allayed by the provisions of a Will which had elevated him to the second-highest position within the ranks of thePage 247
faithful, the fire of unquenchable animosity that glowed in the breast of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali burned even more fiercely as soon as he came to realize the full implications of that Document. All that Abdu'l-Bahá could do, during a period of four distressful years, His incessant exhortations, His earnest pleadings, the favors and kindnesses He showered upon him, the admonitions and warnings He uttered, even His voluntary withdrawal in the hope of averting the threatening storm, proved to be of no avail. Gradually and with unyielding persistence, through lies, half-truths, calumnies and gross exaggerations, this "Prime Mover of sedition" succeeded in ranging on his side almost the entire family of Bahá'u'lláh, as well as a considerable number of those who had formed his immediate entourage. Bahá'u'lláh's two surviving wives, His two sons, the vacillating Mirza Diya'u'llah and the treacherous Mirza Badi'u'llah, with their sister and half-sister and their husbands, one of them the infamous Siyyid Ali, a kinsman of the Báb, the other the crafty Mirza Majdi'd-Din, together with his sister and half-brothers -- the children of the noble, the faithful and now deceased Aqay-i-Kalim -- all united in a determined effort to subvert the foundations of the Covenant which the newly proclaimed Will had laid. Even Mirza Aqa Jan, who for forty years had labored as Bahá'u'lláh's amanuensis, as well as Muhammad-Javad-i-Qasvini, who ever since the days of Adrianople, had been engaged in transcribing the innumerable Tablets revealed by the Supreme Pen, together with his entire family, threw in their lot with the Covenant-breakers, and allowed themselves to be ensnared by their machinations.
Forsaken, betrayed, assaulted by almost the entire body of His relatives, now congregated in the Mansion and the neighboring houses clustering around the most Holy Tomb, Abdu'l-Bahá, already bereft of both His mother and His sons, and without any support at all save that of an unmarried sister, His four unmarried daughters, His wife and His uncle (a half-brother of Bahá'u'lláh), was left alone to bear, in the face of a multitude of enemies arrayed against Him from within and from without, the full brunt of the terrific responsibilities which His exalted office had laid upon Him.
Closely-knit by one common wish and purpose; indefatigable in their efforts; assured of the backing of the powerful and perfidious Jamal-i-Burujirdi and his henchmen, Haji Husayn-i-Kashi, Khalil-i-Khu'i and Jalil-i-Tabrizi who had espoused their cause; linked by a vast system of correspondence with every center and individual they could reach; seconded in their labors by emissaries whom theyPage 248
dispatched to Persia, Iraq, India and Egypt; emboldened in their designs by the attitude of officials whom they bribed or seduced, these repudiators of a divinely-established Covenant arose, as one man, to launch a campaign of abuse and vilification which compared in virulence with the infamous accusations which Mirza Yahya and Siyyid Muhammad had jointly levelled at Bahá'u'lláh. To friend and stranger, believer and unbeliever alike, to officials both high and low, openly and by insinuation, verbally as well as in writing, they represented Abdu'l-Bahá as an ambitious, a self-willed, an unprincipled and pitiless usurper, Who had deliberately disregarded the testamentary instructions of His Father; Who had, in language intentionally veiled and ambiguous, assumed a rank co-equal with the Manifestation Himself; Who in His communications with the West was beginning to claim to be the return of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had come "in the glory of the Father"; Who, in His letters to the Indian believers, was proclaiming Himself as the promised Shah Bahram, and arrogating to Himself the right to interpret the writing of His Father, to inaugurate a new Dispensation, and to share with Him the Most Great Infallibility, the exclusive prerogative of the holders of the prophetic office. They, furthermore, affirmed that He had, for His private ends, fomented discord, fostered enmity and brandished the weapon of excommunication; that He had perverted the purpose of a Testament which they alleged to be primarily concerned with the private interests of Bahá'u'lláh's family by acclaiming it as a Covenant of world importance, pre-existent, peerless and unique in the history of all religions; that He had deprived His brothers and sisters of their lawful allowance, and expended it on officials for His personal advancement; that He had declined all the repeated invitations made to Him to discuss the issues that had arisen and to compose the differences which prevailed; that He had actually corrupted the Holy Text, interpolated passages written by Himself, and perverted the purpose and meaning of some of the weightiest Tablets revealed by the pen of His Father; and finally, that the standard of rebellion had, as a result of such conduct, been raised by the Oriental believers, that the community of the faithful had been rent asunder, was rapidly declining and was doomed to extinction.
And yet it was this same Mirza Muhammad-'Ali who, regarding himself as the exponent of fidelity, the standard-bearer of the "Unitarians," the "Finger who points to his Master," the champion of the Holy Family, the spokesman of the Aghsan, the upholder of thePage 249
Holy Writ, had, in the lifetime of Bahá'u'lláh, so openly and shamelessly advanced in a written statement, signed and sealed by him, the very claim now falsely imputed by him to Abdu'l-Bahá, that his Father had, with His own hand, chastised him. He it was who, when sent on a mission to India, had tampered with the text of the holy writings entrusted to his care for publication. He it was who had the impudence and temerity to tell Abdu'l-Bahá to His face that just as Umar had succeeded in usurping the successorship of the Prophet Muhammad, he, too, felt himself able to do the same. He it was who, obsessed by the fear that he might not survive Abdu'l-Bahá, had, the moment he had been assured by Him that all the honor he coveted would, in the course of time, be his, swiftly rejoined that he had no guarantee that he would outlive Him. He it was who, as testified by Mirza Badi'u'llah in his confession, written and published on the occasion of his repentance and his short-lived reconciliation with Abdu'l-Bahá, had, while Bahá'u'lláh's body was still awaiting interment, carried off, by a ruse, the two satchels containing his Father's most precious documents, entrusted by Him, prior to His ascension, to Abdu'l-Bahá. He it was who, by an exceedingly adroit and simple forgery of a word recurring in some of the denunciatory passages addressed by the Supreme Pen to Mirza Yahya, and by other devices such as mutilation and interpolation, had succeeded in making them directly applicable to a Brother Whom he hated with such consuming passion. And lastly, it was this same Mirza Muhammad-'Ali who, as attested by Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will, had, with circumspection and guile, conspired to take His life, an intention indicated by the allusions made in a letter written by Shu'a'u'llah (Son of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali), the original of which was enclosed in that same Document by Abdu'l-Bahá.
The Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh had, by acts such as these, and others too numerous to recount, been manifestly violated. Another blow, stunning in its first effects, had been administered to the Faith and had caused its structure momentarily to tremble. The storm foreshadowed by the writer of the Apocalypse had broken. The "lightnings," the "thunders," the "earthquake" which must needs accompany the revelation of the "Ark of His Testament," had all come to pass.
Abdu'l-Bahá'í grief over so tragic a development, following so swiftly upon His Father's ascension, was such that, despite the triumphs witnessed in the course of His ministry, it left its traces upon Him till the end of His days. The intensity of the emotions which this somber episode aroused within Him were reminiscent ofPage 250
the effect produced upon Bahá'u'lláh by the dire happenings precipitated by the rebellion of Mirza Yahya. "I swear by the Ancient Beauty!," He wrote in one of His Tablets, "So great is My sorrow and regret that My pen is paralyzed between My fingers." "Thou seest Me," He, in a prayer recorded in His Will, thus laments, "submerged in an ocean of calamities that overwhelm the soul, of afflictions that oppress the heart... Sore trials have compassed Me round, and perils have from all sides beset Me. Thou seest Me immersed in a sea of unsurpassed tribulation, sunk into a fathomless abyss, afflicted by Mine enemies and consumed with the flame of hatred kindled by My kinsmen with whom Thou didst make Thy strong Covenant and Thy firm Testament..." And again in that same Will: "Lord! Thou seest all things weeping over Me, and My kindred rejoicing in My woes. By Thy glory, O my God! Even amongst Mine enemies some have lamented My troubles and My distress, and of the envious ones a number have shed tears because of My cares, My exile and My afflictions." "O Thou the Glory of Glories!," He, in one of His last Tablets, had cried out, "I have renounced the world and its people, and am heart-broken and sorely afflicted because of the unfaithful. In the cage of this world I flutter even as a frightened bird, and yearn every day to take My flight unto Thy Kingdom."
Bahá'u'lláh Himself had significantly revealed in one of His Tablets -- a Tablet that sheds an illuminating light on the entire episode: "By God, O people! Mine eye weepeth, and the eye of Ali (the Báb) weepeth amongst the Concourse on high, and Mine heart crieth out, and the heart of Muhammad crieth out within the Most Glorious Tabernacle, and My soul shouteth and the souls of the Prophets shout before them that are endued with understanding... My sorrow is not for Myself, but for Him Who shall come after Me, in the shadow of My Cause, with manifest and undoubted sovereignty, inasmuch as they will not welcome His appearance, will repudiate His signs, will dispute His sovereignty, will contend with Him, and will betray His Cause..." "Can it be possible," He, in a no less significant Tablet, had observed, "that after the dawning of the day-star of Thy Testament above the horizon of Thy Most Great Tablet, the feet of any one shall slip in Thy Straight Path? Unto this We answered: 'O My most exalted Pen! It behoveth Thee to occupy Thyself with that whereunto Thou hast been bidden by God, the Exalted, the Great. Ask not of that which will consume Thine heart and the hearts of the denizens of Paradise, who have circled round My wondrous Cause. It behoveth Thee not to be acquainted with thatPage 251
which We have veiled from Thee. Thy Lord is, verily, the Concealer, the All-Knowing!'" More specifically Bahá'u'lláh had, referring to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in clear and unequivocal language, affirmed: "He, verily, is but one of My servants... Should he for a moment pass out from under the shadow of the Cause, he surely shall be brought to naught." Furthermore, in a no less emphatic language, He, again in connection with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali had stated: "By God, the True One! Were We, for a single instant, to withhold from him the outpourings of Our Cause, he would wither, and would fall upon the dust." Abdu'l-Bahá Himself had, moreover, testified: "There is no doubt that in a thousand passages in the sacred writings of Bahá'u'lláh the breakers of the Covenant have been execrated." Some of these passages He Himself compiled, ere His departure from this world, and incorporated them in one of His last Tablets, as a warning and safeguard against those who, throughout His ministry, had manifested so implacable a hatred against Him, and had come so near to subverting the foundations of a Covenant on which not only His own authority but the integrity of the Faith itself depended.Page 252
The Rise and Establishment of the Faith in the West
Though the rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali precipitated many sombre and distressing events, and though its dire consequences continued for several years to obscure the light of the Covenant, to endanger the life of its appointed Center, and to distract the thoughts and retard the progress of the activities of its supporters in both the East and the West, yet the entire episode, viewed in its proper perspective, proved to be neither more nor less than one of those periodic crises which, since the inception of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and throughout a whole century, have been instrumental in weeding out its harmful elements, in fortifying its foundations, in demonstrating its resilience, and in releasing a further measure of its latent powers.
Now that the provisions of a divinely appointed Covenant had been indubitably proclaimed; now that the purpose of the Covenant was clearly apprehended and its fundamentals had become immovably established in the hearts of the overwhelming majority of the adherents of the Faith; and now that the first assaults launched by its would-be subverters had been successfully repulsed, the Cause for which that Covenant had been designed could forge ahead along the course traced for it by the finger of its Author. Shining exploits and unforgettable victories had already signalized the birth of that Cause and accompanied its rise in several countries of the Asiatic continent, and particularly in the homeland of its Founder. The mission of its newly-appointed Leader, the steward of its glory and the diffuser of its light, was, as conceived by Himself, to enrich and extend the bounds of the incorruptible patrimony entrusted to His hands by shedding the illumination of His Father's Faith upon the West, by expounding the fundamental precepts of that Faith and its cardinal principles, by consolidating the activities which had already been initiated for the promotion of its interests, and, finally, by ushering in, through the provisions of His own Will, the Formative Age in its evolution.
A year after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Abdu'l-Bahá had, in a verse which He had revealed, and which had evoked the derision of the Covenant-breakers, already foreshadowed an auspicious event whichPage 253
posterity would recognize as one of the greatest triumphs of His ministry, which in the end would confer an inestimable blessing upon the western world, and which erelong was to dispel the grief and the apprehensions that had surrounded the community of His fellow-exiles in Akka. The Great Republic of the West, above all the other countries of the Occident, was singled out to be the first recipient of God's inestimable blessing, and to become the chief agent in its transmission to so many of her sister nations throughout the five continents of the earth.
The importance of so momentous a development in the evolution of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh -- the establishment of His Cause in the North American continent -- at a time when Abdu'l-Bahá had just inaugurated His Mission, and was still in the throes of the most grievous crisis with which He was ever confronted, can in no wise be overestimated. As far back as the year which witnessed the birth of the Faith in Shiraz the Báb had, in the Qayyumu'l-Asma', after having warned in a memorable passage the peoples of both the Orient and the Occident, directly addressed the "peoples of the West," and significantly bidden them "issue forth" from their "cities" to aid God, and "become as brethren" in His "one and indivisible religion." "In the East," Bahá'u'lláh Himself had, in anticipation of this development, written, "the light of His Revelation hath broken; in the West the signs of His dominion have appeared." "Should they attempt," He, moreover, had predicted, "to conceal its light on the continent, it will assuredly rear its head in the midmost heart of the ocean, and, raising its voice, proclaim: 'I am the lifegiver of the world!'" "Had this Cause been revealed in the West," He, shortly before His ascension, is reported by Nabil in his narrative to have stated, "had Our verses been sent from the West to Persia and other countries of the East, it would have become evident how the people of the Occident would have embraced Our Cause. The people of Persia, however, have failed to appreciate it." "From the beginning of time until the present day," is Abdu'l-Bahá'í own testimony, "the light of Divine Revelation hath risen in the East and shed its radiance upon the West. The illumination thus shed hath, however, acquired in the West an extraordinary brilliancy. Consider the Faith proclaimed by Jesus. Though it first appeared in the East, yet not until its light had been shed upon the West did the full measure of its potentialities become manifest." "The day is approaching," He has affirmed, "when ye shall witness how, through the splendor of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, the West will have replaced the East, radiating the light of DivinePage 254
guidance." And again: "The West hath acquired illumination from the East, but, in some respects, the reflection of the light hath been greater in the Occident." Furthermore, "The East hath, verily, been illumined with the light of the Kingdom. Erelong will this same light shed a still greater illumination upon the West."
More specifically has the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation Himself chosen to confer upon the rulers of the American continent the unique honor of addressing them collectively in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, His most Holy Book, significantly exhorting them to "adorn the temple of dominion with the ornament of justice and of the fear of God, and its head with the crown of the remembrance" of their Lord, and bidding them "bind with the hands of justice the broken," and "crush the oppressor" with the "rod of the commandments" of their "Lord, the Ordainer, the All-Wise." "The continent of America," wrote Abdu'l-Bahá, "is, in the eyes of the one true God, the land wherein the splendors of His light shall be revealed, where the mysteries of His Faith shall be unveiled, where the righteous will abide and the free assemble." "The American continent," He has furthermore predicted, "giveth signs and evidences of very great advancement. Its future is even more promising, for its influence and illumination are far reaching. It will lead all nations spiritually."
"The American people," Abdu'l-Bahá, even more distinctly, singling out for His special favor the Great Republic of the West, the leading nation of the American continent, has revealed, "are indeed worthy of being the first to build the Tabernacle of the Most Great Peace, and proclaim the oneness of mankind." And again: "This American nation is equipped and empowered to accomplish that which will adorn the pages of history, to become the envy of the world, and be blest in both the East and the West for the triumph of its people." Furthermore: "May this American democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the Most Great Peace." "May the inhabitants of this country," He, moreover has written, "...rise from their present material attainment to such heights that heavenly illumination may stream from this center to all the peoples of the world."
"O ye apostles of Bahá'u'lláh!," Abdu'l-Bahá has thus addressed the believers of the North American continent, "...consider how exalted and lofty is the station you are destined to attain... The full measure of your success is as yet unrevealed, its significance still unapprehended." And again: "Your mission is unspeakably glorious.Page 255
Should success crown your enterprise, America will assuredly evolve into a center from which waves of spiritual power will emanate, and the throne of the Kingdom of God, will in the plenitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly established." And finally, this stirring affirmation: "The moment this Divine Message is carried forward by the American believers from the shores of America, and is propagated through the continents of Europe, of Asia, of Africa and of Australasia, and as far as the islands of the Pacific, this community will find itself securely established upon the throne of an everlasting dominion... Then will the whole earth resound with the praises of its majesty and greatness."
Little wonder that a community belonging to a nation so abundantly blessed, a nation occupying so eminent a position in a continent so richly endowed, should have been able to add, during the fifty years of its existence, many a page rich with victories to the annals of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. This is the community, it should be remembered, which, ever since it was called into being through the creative energies released by the proclamation of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, was nursed in the lap of Abdu'l-Bahá'í unfailing solicitude, and was trained by Him to discharge its unique mission through the revelation of innumerable Tablets, through the instructions issued to returning pilgrims, through the despatch of special messengers, through His own travels at a later date, across the North American continent, through the emphasis laid by Him on the institution of the Covenant in the course of those travels, and finally through His mandate embodied in the Tablets of the Divine Plan. This is the community which, from its earliest infancy until the present day, has unremittingly labored and succeeded, through its own unaided efforts, in implanting the banner of Bahá'u'lláh in the vast majority of the sixty countries which, in both the East and the West, can now claim the honor of being included within the pale of His Faith. To this community belongs the distinction of having evolved the pattern, and of having been the first to erect the framework, of the administrative institutions that herald the advent of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. Through the efforts of its members the Mother Temple of the West, the Harbinger of that Order, one of the noblest institutions ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and the most stately edifice reared in the entire Bahá'í world, has been erected in the very heart of the North American continent. Through the assiduous labors of its pioneers, its teachers and its administrators, the literature of the Faith has been enormously expanded, its aims and purposes fearlessly defended, and its nascent institutions solidlyPage 256
established. In direct consequence of the unsupported and indefatigable endeavors of the most distinguished of its itinerant teachers the spontaneous allegiance of Royalty to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh has been secured and unmistakably proclaimed in several testimonies transmitted to posterity by the pen of the royal convert herself. And finally, to the members of this community, the spiritual descendants of the dawn-breakers of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation, must be ascribed the eternal honor of having arisen, on numerous occasions, with marvelous alacrity, zeal and determination, to champion the cause of the oppressed, to relieve the needy, and to defend the interests of the edifices and institutions reared by their brethren in countries such as Persia, Russia, Egypt, Iraq and Germany, countries where the adherents of the Faith have had to sustain, in varying measure, the rigors of racial and religious persecution.
Strange, indeed, that in a country, invested with such a unique function among its sister-nations throughout the West, the first public reference to the Author of so glorious a Faith should have been made through the mouth of one of the members of that ecclesiastical order with which that Faith has had so long to contend, and from which it has frequently suffered. Stranger still that he who first established it in the city of Chicago, fifty years after the Báb had declared His Mission in Shiraz, should himself have forsaken, a few years later, the standard which he, single-handed, had implanted in that city.
It was on September 23, 1893, a little over a year after Bahá'u'lláh's ascension, that, in a paper written by Rev. Henry H. Jessup, D.D., Director of Presbyterian Missionary Operations in North Syria, and read by Rev. George A. Ford of Syria, at the World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago, in connection with the Columbian Exposition, commemorating the four-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America, it was announced that "a famous Persian Sage," "the Bábi Saint," had died recently in Akka, and that two years previous to His ascension "a Cambridge scholar" had visited Him, to whom He had expressed "sentiments so noble, so Christ-like" that the author of the paper, in his "closing words," wished to share them with his audience. Less than a year later, in February 1894, a Syrian doctor, named Ibrahim Khayru'llah, who, while residing in Cairo, had been converted by Haji Abdu'l-Karim-i-Tihrani to the Faith, had received a Tablet from Bahá'u'lláh, had communicated with Abdu'l-Bahá, and reached New York in December 1892, established his residence in Chicago, and began to teach actively and systematically the Cause he had espoused. Within the space of two years he had communicatedPage 257
his impressions to Abdu'l-Bahá, and reported on the remarkable success that had attended his efforts. In 1895 an opening was vouchsafed to him in Kenosha, which he continued to visit once a week, in the course of his teaching activities. By the following year the believers in these two cities, it was reported, were counted by hundreds. In 1897 he published his book, entitled the Bábu'd-Din, and visited Kansas City, New York City, Ithaca and Philadelphia, where he was able to win for the Faith a considerable number of supporters. The stout-hearted Thornton Chase, surnamed Thabit (Steadfast) by Abdu'l-Bahá and designated by Him "the first American believer," who became a convert to the Faith in 1894, the immortal Louisa A. Moore, the mother teacher of the West, surnamed Liva (Banner) by Abdu'l-Bahá, Dr. Edward Getsinger, to whom she was later married, Howard MacNutt, Arthur P. Dodge, Isabella D. Brittingham, Lillian F. Kappes, Paul K. Dealy, Chester I. Thacher and Helen S. Goodall, whose names will ever remain associated with the first stirrings of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in the North American continent, stand out as the most prominent among those who, in those early years, awakened to the call of the New Day, and consecrated their lives to the service of the newly proclaimed Covenant.
By 1898 Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, the well-known philanthropist (wife of Senator George F. Hearst), whom Mrs. Getsinger had, while on a visit to California, attracted to the Faith, had expressed her intention of visiting Abdu'l-Bahá in the Holy Land, had invited several believers, among them Dr. and Mrs. Getsinger, Dr. Khayru'llah and his wife, to join her, and had completed the necessary arrangements for their historic pilgrimage to Akka. In Paris several resident Americans, among whom were May Ellis Bolles, whom Mrs. Getsinger had won over to the Faith, Miss Pearson, and Ann Apperson, both nieces of Mrs. Hearst, with Mrs. Thornburgh and her daughter, were added to the party, the number of which was later swelled in Egypt by the addition of Dr. Khayru'llah's daughters and their grand-mother whom he had recently converted.
The arrival of fifteen pilgrims, in three successive parties, the first of which, including Dr. and Mrs. Getsinger, reached the prison-city of Akka on December 10, 1898; the intimate personal contact established between the Center of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and the newly arisen heralds of His Revelation in the West; the moving circumstances attending their visit to His Tomb and the great honor bestowed upon them of being conducted by Abdu'l-Bahá Himself into its innermost chamber; the spirit which, through precept and example, despite thePage 258
briefness of their stay, a loving and bountiful Host so powerfully infused into them; and the passionate zeal and unyielding resolve which His inspiring exhortations, His illuminating instructions and the multiple evidences of His divine love kindled in their hearts -- all these marked the opening of a new epoch in the development of the Faith in the West, an epoch whose significance the acts subsequently performed by some of these same pilgrims and their fellow-disciples have amply demonstrated.
"Of that first meeting," one of these pilgrims, recording her impressions, has written, "I can remember neither joy nor pain, nor anything that I can name. I had been carried suddenly to too great a height, my soul had come in contact with the Divine Spirit, and this force, so pure, so holy, so mighty, had overwhelmed me... We could not remove our eyes from His glorious face; we heard all that He said; we drank tea with Him at His bidding; but existence seemed suspended; and when He arose and suddenly left us, we came back with a start to life; but never again, oh! never again, thank God, the same life on this earth." "In the might and majesty of His presence," that same pilgrim, recalling the last interview accorded the party of which she was a member, has testified, "our fear was turned to perfect faith, our weakness into strength, our sorrow into hope, and ourselves forgotten in our love for Him. As we all sat before Him, waiting to hear His words, some of the believers wept bitterly. He bade them dry their tears, but they could not for a moment. So again He asked them for His sake not to weep, nor would He talk to us and teach us until all tears were banished..."
..."Those three days," Mrs. Hearst herself has, in one of her letters, testified, "were the most memorable days of my life... The Master I will not attempt to describe: I will only state that I believe with all my heart that He is the Master, and my greatest blessing in this world is that I have been privileged to be in His presence, and look upon His sanctified face... Without a doubt Abbas Effendi is the Messiah of this day and generation, and we need not look for another." "I must say," she, moreover, has in another letter written, "He is the most wonderful Being I have ever met or ever expect to meet in this world... The spiritual atmosphere which surrounds Him and most powerfully affects all those who are blest by being near Him, is indescribable... I believe in Him with all my heart and soul, and I hope all who call themselves believers will concede to Him all the greatness, all the glory, and all the praise, for surely He is the Son of God -- and 'the spirit of the Father abideth in Him.'"Page 259
Even Mrs. Hearst's butler, a negro named Robert Turner, the first member of his race to embrace the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh in the West, had been transported by the influence exerted by Abdu'l-Bahá in the course of that epoch-making pilgrimage. Such was the tenacity of his faith that even the subsequent estrangement of his beloved mistress from the Cause she had spontaneously embraced failed to becloud its radiance, or to lessen the intensity of the emotions which the loving-kindness showered by Abdu'l-Bahá upon him had excited in his breast.
The return of these God-intoxicated pilgrims, some to France, others to the United States, was the signal for an outburst of systematic and sustained activity, which, as it gathered momentum, and spread its ramifications over Western Europe and the states and provinces of the North American continent, grew to so great a scale that Abdu'l-Bahá Himself resolved that, as soon as He should be released from His prolonged confinement in Akka, He would undertake a personal mission to the West. Undeflected in its course by the devastating crisis which the ambition of Dr. Khayru'llah had, upon his return from the Holy Land (December, 1899) precipitated; undismayed by the agitation which he, working in collaboration with the arch-breaker of the Covenant and his messengers, had provoked; disdainful of the attacks launched by him and his fellow-seceders, as well as by Christian ecclesiastics increasingly jealous of the rising power and extending influence of the Faith; nourished by a continual flow of pilgrims who transmitted the verbal messages and special instructions of a vigilant Master; invigorated by the effusions of His pen recorded in innumerable Tablets; instructed by the successive messengers and teachers dispatched at His behest for its guidance, edification and consolidation, the community of the American believers arose to initiate a series of enterprises which, blessed and stimulated a decade later by Abdu'l-Bahá Himself, were to be but a prelude to the unparalleled services destined to be rendered by its members during the Formative Age of His Father's Dispensation.
No sooner had one of these pilgrims, the afore-mentioned May Bolles, returned to Paris than she succeeded, in compliance with Abdu'l-Bahá'í emphatic instructions, in establishing in that city the first Bahá'í center to be formed on the European continent. This center was, shortly after her arrival, reinforced by the conversion of the illumined Thomas Breakwell, the first English believer, immortalized by Abdu'l-Bahá'í fervent eulogy revealed in his memory; of Hippolyte Dreyfus, the first Frenchman to embrace the Faith, who,Page 260
through his writings, translations, travels and other pioneer services, was able to consolidate, as the years went by, the work which had been initiated in his country; and of Laura Barney, whose imperishable service was to collect and transmit to posterity in the form of a book, entitled "Some Answered Questions," Abdu'l-Bahá'í priceless explanations, covering a wide variety of subjects, given to her in the course of an extended pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Three years later, in 1902, May Bolles, now married to a Canadian, transferred her residence to Montreal, and succeeded in laying the foundations of the Cause in that Dominion.
In London Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper, as a consequence of the creative influences released by that never-to-be-forgotten pilgrimage, was able to initiate activities which, stimulated and expanded through the efforts of the first English believers, and particularly of Ethel J. Rosenberg, converted in 1899, enabled them to erect, in later years, the structure of their administrative institutions in the British Isles. In the North American continent, the defection and the denunciatory publications of Dr. Khayru'llah (encouraged as he was by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his son Shu'a'u'llah, whom he had despatched to America) tested to the utmost the loyalty of the newly fledged community; but successive messengers despatched by Abdu'l-Bahá (such as Haji Abdu'l-Karim-i-Tihrani, Haji Mirza Hasan-i-Khurasani, Mirza Asadu'llah and Mirza Abu'l-Fadl) succeeded in rapidly dispelling the doubts, and in deepening the understanding, of the believers, in holding the community together, and in forming the nucleus of those administrative institutions which, two decades later, were to be formally inaugurated through the explicit provisions of Abdu'l-Bahá'í Will and Testament. As far back as the year 1899 a council board of seven officers, the forerunner of a series of Assemblies which, ere the close of the first Bahá'í Century, were to cover the North American Continent from coast to coast, was established in the city of Kenosha. In 1902 a Bahá'í Publishing Society, designed to propagate the literature of a gradually expanding community, was formed in Chicago. A Bahá'í Bulletin, for the purpose of disseminating the teachings of the Faith was inaugurated in New York. The "Bahá'í News," another periodical, subsequently appeared in Chicago, and soon developed into a magazine entitled "Star of the West." The translation of some of the most important writings of Bahá'u'lláh, such as the "Hidden Words," the "Kitáb-i-Iqan," the "Tablets to the Kings," and the "Seven Valleys," together with the Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, as wellPage 261
as several treatises and pamphlets written by Mirza Abu'l-Fadl and others, was energetically undertaken. A considerable correspondence with various centers throughout the Orient was initiated, and grew steadily in scope and importance. Brief histories of the Faith, books and pamphlets written in its defence, articles for the press, accounts of travels and pilgrimages, eulogies and poems, were likewise published and widely disseminated.
Simultaneously, travellers and teachers, emerging triumphantly from the storms of tests and trials which had threatened to engulf their beloved Cause, arose, of their own accord, to reinforce and multiply the strongholds of the Faith already established. Centers were opened in the cities of Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Seattle, St. Paul and in other places. Audacious pioneers, whether as visitors or settlers, eager to spread the new born Evangel beyond the confines of their native country, undertook journeys, and embarked on enterprises which carried its light to the heart of Europe, to the Far East, and as far as the islands of the Pacific. Mason Remey voyaged to Russia and Persia, and later, with Howard Struven, circled, for the first time in Bahá'í history, the globe, visiting on his way the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, China, India and Burma. Hooper Harris and Harlan Ober traveled, during no less than seven months, in India and Burma, visiting Bombay, Poona, Lahore, Calcutta, Rangoon and Mandalay. Alma Knobloch, following on the heels of Dr. K. E. Fisher, hoisted the standard of the Faith in Germany, and carried its light to Austria. Dr. Susan I. Moody, Sydney Sprague, Lillian F. Kappes, Dr. Sarah Clock, and Elizabeth Stewart transferred their residence to Tihran for the purpose of furthering the manifold interests of the Faith, in collaboration with the Bahá'ís of that city. Sarah Farmer, who had already initiated in 1894, at Green Acre, in the State of Maine, summer conferences and established a center for the promotion of unity and fellowship between races and religions, placed, after her pilgrimage to Akka in 1900, the facilities these conferences provided at the disposal of the followers of the Faith which she had herself recently embraced.
And last but not least, inspired by the example set by their fellow-disciples in Ishqabad, who had already commenced the construction of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world, and afire with the desire to demonstrate, in a tangible and befitting manner, the quality of their faith and devotion, the Bahá'ís of Chicago, having petitioned Abdu'l-Bahá for permission to erect a House of Worship,Page 262
and secured, in a Tablet revealed in June 1903, His ready and enthusiastic approval, arose, despite the smallness of their numbers and their limited resources, to initiate an enterprise which must rank as the greatest single contribution which the Bahá'ís of America, and indeed of the West, have as yet made to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. The subsequent encouragement given them by Abdu'l-Bahá, and the contributions raised by various Assemblies decided the members of this Assembly to invite representatives of their fellow-believers in various parts of the country to meet in Chicago for the initiation of the stupendous undertaking they had conceived. On November 26, 1907, the assembled representatives, convened for that purpose, appointed a committee of nine to locate a suitable site for the proposed Temple. By April 9, 1908, the sum of two thousand dollars had been paid for the purchase of two building lots, situated near the shore of Lake Michigan. In March 1909, a convention representative of various Bahá'í centers was called, in pursuance of instructions received from Abdu'l-Bahá. The thirty-nine delegates, representing thirty-six cities, who had assembled in Chicago, on the very day the remains of the Báb were laid to rest by Abdu'l-Bahá in the specially erected mausoleum on Mt. Carmel, established a permanent national organization, known as the Bahá'í Temple Unity, which was incorporated as a religious corporation, functioning under the laws of the State of Illinois, and invested with full authority to hold title to the property of the Temple and to provide ways and means for its construction. At this same convention a constitution was framed, the Executive Board of the Bahá'í Temple Unity was elected, and was authorized by the delegates to complete the purchase of the land recommended by the previous Convention. Contributions for this historic enterprise, from India, Persia, Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Russia, Egypt, Germany, France, England, Canada, Mexico, the Hawaiian Islands, and even Mauritius, and from no less than sixty American cities, amounted by 1910, two years previous to Abdu'l-Bahá'í arrival in America, to no less than twenty thousand dollars, a remarkable testimony alike to the solidarity of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in both the East and the West, and to the self-sacrificing efforts exerted by the American believers who, as the work progressed, assumed a preponderating share in providing the sum of over a million dollars required for the erection of the structure of the Temple and its external ornamentation.Page 263
The outstanding accomplishments of a valiant and sorely-tested community, the first fruits of Bahá'u'lláh's newly established Covenant in the Western world, had laid a foundation sufficiently imposing to invite the presence of the appointed Center of that Covenant, Who had called that Community into being and watched, with such infinite care and foresight, over its budding destinies. Not until, however, Abdu'l-Bahá had emerged from the severe crisis which had already for several years been holding Him in its toils could He undertake His memorable voyage to the shores of a continent where the rise and establishment of His Father's Faith had been signalized by such magnificent and enduring achievements.
This second major crisis of His ministry, external in nature and hardly less severe than the one precipitated by the rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, gravely imperiled His life, deprived Him, for a number of years, of the relative freedom He had enjoyed, plunged into anguish His family and the followers of the Faith in East and West, and exposed as never before, the degradation and infamy of His relentless adversaries. It originated two years after the departure of the first American pilgrims from the Holy Land. It persisted, with varying degrees of intensity, during more than seven years, and was directly attributable to the incessant intrigues and monstrous misrepresentations of the Arch-Breaker of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and his supporters.
Embittered by his abject failure to create a schism on which he had fondly pinned his hopes; stung by the conspicuous success which the standard-bearers of the Covenant had, despite his machinations, achieved in the North American continent; encouraged by the existence of a regime that throve in an atmosphere of intrigue and suspicion, and which was presided over by a cunning and cruel potentate; determined to exploit to the full the opportunities for mischief afforded him by the arrival of Western pilgrims at the prison-fortress of Akka, as well as by the commencement of the construction of the Báb's sepulcher on Mt. Carmel, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, seconded by his brother, Mirza Badi'u'llah, and aided by his brother-in-law,Page 264
Mirza Majdi'd-Din, succeeded through strenuous and persistent endeavors in exciting the suspicion of the Turkish government and its officials, and in inducing them to reimpose on Abdu'l-Bahá the confinement from which, in the days of Bahá'u'lláh, He had so grievously suffered.
This very brother, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's chief accomplice, in a written confession signed, sealed and published by him, on the occasion of his reconciliation with Abdu'l-Bahá, has borne testimony to the wicked plots that had been devised. "What I have heard from others," wrote Mirza Badi'u'llah, "I will ignore. I will only recount what I have seen with my own eyes, and heard from his (Mirza Muhammad-'Ali) lips." "It was arranged by him (Mirza Muhammad-'Ali)," he, then, proceeds to relate, "to dispatch Mirza Majdi'd-Din with a gift and a letter written in Persian to Nazim Pasha, the Vali (governor) of Damascus, and to seek his assistance.... As he (Mirza Majdi'd-Din) himself informed me in Haifa he did all he could to acquaint him (governor) fully with the construction work on Mt. Carmel, with the comings and goings of the American believers, and with the gatherings held in Akka. The Pasha, in his desire to know all the facts, was extremely kind to him, and assured him of his aid. A few days after Mirza Majdi'd-Din's return a cipher telegram was received from the Sublime Porte, transmitting the Sultan's orders to incarcerate Abdu'l-Bahá, myself and the others." "In those days," he, furthermore, in that same document, testifies, "a man who came to Akka from Damascus stated to outsiders that Nazim Pasha had been the cause of the incarceration of Abbas Effendi. The strangest thing of all is this that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, after he had been incarcerated, wrote a letter to Nazim Pasha for the purpose of achieving his own deliverance.... The Pasha, however, did not write even a word in answer to either the first or the second letter."
It was in 1901, on the fifth day of the month of Jamadiyu'l-Avval 1319 A.H. (August 20) that Abdu'l-Bahá, upon His return from Bahji where He had participated in the celebration of the anniversary of the Báb's Declaration, was informed, in the course of an interview with the governor of Akka, of Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid's instructions ordering that the restrictions which had been gradually relaxed should be reimposed, and that He and His brothers should be strictly confined within the walls of that city. The Sultan's edict was at first rigidly enforced, the freedom of the exiled community was severely curtailed, while Abdu'l-Bahá had to submit, alone andPage 265
unaided, to the prolonged interrogation of judges and officials, who required His presence for several consecutive days at government headquarters for the purpose of their investigations. One of His first acts was to intercede on behalf of His brothers, who had been peremptorily summoned and informed by the governor of the orders of the sovereign, an act which failed to soften their hostility or lessen their malevolent activities. Subsequently, through His intervention with the civil and military authorities, He succeeded in obtaining the freedom of His followers who resided in Akka, and in enabling them to continue to earn, without interference, the means of livelihood.
The Covenant-breakers were unappeased by the measures taken by the authorities against One Who had so magnanimously intervened on their behalf. Aided by the notorious Yahya Bey, the chief of police, and other officials, civil as well as military, who, in consequence of their representations, had replaced those who had been friendly to Abdu'l-Bahá, and by secret agents who traveled back and forth between Akka and Constantinople, and who even kept a vigilant watch over everything that went on in His household, they arose to encompass His ruin. They lavished on officials gifts which included possessions sacred to the memory of Bahá'u'lláh, and shamelessly proffered to high and low alike bribes drawn, in some instances, from the sale of properties associated with Him or bestowed upon some of them by Abdu'l-Bahá. Relaxing nothing of their efforts they pursued relentlessly the course of their nefarious activities, determined to leave no stone unturned until they had either brought about His execution or ensured His deportation to a place remote enough to enable them to wrest the Cause from His grasp. The Vali of Damascus, the Mufti of Beirut, members of the Protestant missions established in Syria and Akka, even the influential Shaykh Abu'l-Huda, in Constantinople, whom the Sultan held in as profound an esteem as that in which Muhammad Shah had held his Grand Vizir, Haji Mirza Aqasi, were, on various occasions, approached, appealed to, and urged to lend their assistance for the prosecution of their odious designs.
Through verbal messages, formal communications and by personal interviews the Covenant-breakers impressed upon these notables the necessity of immediate action, shrewdly adapting their arguments to the particular interests and prejudices of those whose aid they solicited. To some they represented Abdu'l-Bahá as a callous usurper Who had trampled upon their rights, robbed them of their heritage, reduced them to poverty, made their friends in Persia their enemies,Page 266
accumulated for Himself a vast fortune, and acquired no less than two-thirds of the land in Haifa. To others they declared that Abdu'l-Bahá contemplated making of Akka and Haifa a new Mecca and Medina. To still others they affirmed that Bahá'u'lláh was no more than a retired dervish, who professed and promoted the Faith of Islam, Whom Abbas Effendi, His son, had, for the purpose of self-glorification, exalted to the rank of God-head, whilst claiming Himself to be the Son of God and the return of Jesus Christ. They further accused Him of harboring designs inimical to the interests of the state, of meditating a rebellion against the Sultan, of having already hoisted the banner of Ya Baha'u'l-Abha, the ensign of revolt, in distant villages in Palestine and Syria, of having raised surreptitiously an army of thirty thousand men, of being engaged in the construction of a fortress and a vast ammunition depot on Mt. Carmel, of having secured the moral and material support of a host of English and American friends, amongst whom were officers of foreign powers, who were arriving, in large numbers and in disguise, to pay Him their homage, and of having already, in conjunction with them, drawn up His plans for the subjugation of the neighboring provinces, for the expulsion of the ruling authorities, and for the ultimate seizure of the power wielded by the Sultan himself. Through misrepresentation and bribery they succeeded in inducing certain people to affix their signatures as witnesses to the documents which they had drawn up, and which they despatched, through their agents, to the Sublime Porte.
Such grave accusations, embodied in numerous reports, could not fail to perturb profoundly the mind of a despot already obsessed by the fear of impending rebellion among his subjects. A commission was accordingly appointed to inquire into the matter, and report the result of its investigations. Each of the charges brought against Abdu'l-Bahá, when summoned to the court, on several occasions, He carefully and fearlessly refuted. He exposed the absurdity of these accusations, acquainted the members of the Commission, in support of His argument, with the provisions of Bahá'u'lláh's Testament, expressed His readiness to submit to any sentence the court might decide to pass upon Him, and eloquently affirmed that if they should chain Him, drag Him through the streets, execrate and ridicule Him, stone and spit upon Him, suspend Him in the public square, and riddle Him with bullets, He would regard it as a signal honor, inasmuch as He would thereby be following in the footsteps, and sharing the sufferings, of His beloved Leader, the Báb.Page 267
The gravity of the situation confronting Abdu'l-Bahá; the rumors that were being set afloat by a population that anticipated the gravest developments; the hints and allusions to the dangers threatening Him contained in newspapers published in Egypt and Syria; the aggressive attitude which His enemies increasingly assumed; the provocative behavior of some of the inhabitants of Akka and Haifa who had been emboldened by the predictions and fabrications of these enemies regarding the fate awaiting a suspected community and its Leader, led Him to reduce the number of pilgrims, and even to suspend, for a time, their visits, and to issue special instructions that His mail be handled through an agent in Egypt rather than in Haifa; for a time He ordered that it should be held there pending further advice from Him. He, moreover, directed the believers, as well as His own secretaries, to collect and remove to a place of safety all the Bahá'í writings in their possession, and, urging them to transfer their residence to Egypt, went so far as to forbid their gathering, as was their wont, in His house. Even His numerous friends and admirers refrained, during the most turbulent days of this period, from calling upon Him, for fear of being implicated and of incurring the suspicion of the authorities. On certain days and nights, when the outlook was at its darkest, the house in which He was living, and which had for many years been a focus of activity, was completely deserted. Spies, secretly and openly, kept watch around it, observing His every movement and restricting the freedom of His family.
The construction of the Báb's sepulcher, whose foundation-stone had been laid by Him on the site blessed and selected by Bahá'u'lláh, He, however, refused to suspend, or even interrupt, for however brief a period. Nor would He allow any obstacle, however formidable, to interfere with the daily flow of Tablets which poured forth, with prodigious rapidity and ever increasing volume, from His indefatigable pen, in answer to the vast number of letters, reports, inquiries, prayers, confessions of faith, apologies and eulogies received from countless followers and admirers in both the East and the West. Eye-witnesses have testified that, during that agitated and perilous period of His life, they had known Him to pen, with His own Hand, no less than ninety Tablets in a single day, and to pass many a night, from dusk to dawn, alone in His bed-chamber engaged in a correspondence which the pressure of His manifold responsibilities had prevented Him from attending to in the day-time.
It was during these troublous times, the most dramatic period of His ministry, when, in the hey-day of His life and in the full tide ofPage 268
His power, He, with inexhaustible energy, marvelous serenity and unshakable confidence, initiated and resistlessly prosecuted the varied enterprises associated with that ministry. It was during these times that the plan of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world was conceived by Him, and its construction undertaken by His followers in the city of Ishqabad in Turkistan. It was during these times, despite the disturbances that agitated His native country, that instructions were issued by Him for the restoration of the holy and historic House of the Báb in Shiraz. It was during these times that the initial measures, chiefly through His constant encouragement, were taken which paved the way for the laying of the dedication stone, which He, in later years, placed with His own hands when visiting the site of the Mother Temple of the West on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was at this juncture that that celebrated compilation of His table talks, published under the title "Some Answered Questions," was made, talks given during the brief time He was able to spare, in the course of which certain fundamental aspects of His Father's Faith were elucidated, traditional and rational proofs of its validity adduced, and a great variety of subjects regarding the Christian Dispensation, the Prophets of God, Biblical prophecies, the origin and condition of man and other kindred themes authoritatively explained.
It was during the darkest hours of this period that, in a communication addressed to the Báb's cousin, the venerable Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, the chief builder of the Temple of Ishqabad, Abdu'l-Bahá, in stirring terms, proclaimed the immeasurable greatness of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, sounded the warnings foreshadowing the turmoil which its enemies, both far and near, would let loose upon the world, and prophesied, in moving language, the ascendancy which the torchbearers of the Covenant would ultimately achieve over them. It was at an hour of grave suspense, during that same period, that He penned His Will and Testament, that immortal Document wherein He delineated the features of the Administrative Order which would arise after His passing, and would herald the establishment of that World Order, the advent of which the Báb had announced, and the laws and principles of which Bahá'u'lláh had already formulated. It was in the course of these tumultuous years that, through the instrumentality of the heralds and champions of a firmly instituted Covenant, He reared the embryonic institutions, administrative, spiritual, and educational, of a steadily expanding Faith in Persia, the cradle of that Faith, in the Great Republic of the West,Page 269
the cradle of its Administrative Order, in the Dominion of Canada, in France, in England, in Germany, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Russia, in India, in Burma, in Japan, and even in the remote Pacific Islands. It was during these stirring times that a tremendous impetus was lent by Him to the translation, the publication and dissemination of Bahá'í literature, whose scope now included a variety of books and treatises, written in the Persian, the Arabic, the English, the Turkish, the French, the German, the Russian and Burmese languages. At His table, in those days, whenever there was a lull in the storm raging about Him, there would gather pilgrims, friends and inquirers from most of the afore-mentioned countries, representative of the Christian, the Muslim, the Jewish, the Zoroastrian, the Hindu and Buddhist Faiths. To the needy thronging His doors and filling the courtyard of His house every Friday morning, in spite of the perils that environed Him, He would distribute alms with His own hands, with a regularity and generosity that won Him the title of "Father of the Poor." Nothing in those tempestuous days could shake His confidence, nothing would be allowed to interfere with His ministrations to the destitute, the orphan, the sick, and the down-trodden, nothing could prevent Him from calling in person upon those who were either incapacitated or ashamed to solicit His aid. Adamant in His determination to follow the example of both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, nothing would induce Him to flee from His enemies, or escape from imprisonment, neither the advice tendered Him by the leading members of the exiled community in Akka, nor the insistent pleas of the Spanish Consul -- a kinsman of the agent of an Italian steamship company -- who, in his love for Abdu'l-Bahá and his anxiety to avert the threatening danger, had gone so far as to place at His disposal an Italian freighter, ready to provide Him a safe passage to any foreign port He might name.
So imperturbable was Abdu'l-Bahá'í equanimity that, while rumors were being bruited about that He might be cast into the sea, or exiled to Fizan in Tripolitania, or hanged on the gallows, He, to the amazement of His friends and the amusement of His enemies, was to be seen planting trees and vines in the garden of His house, whose fruits when the storm had blown over, He would bid His faithful gardener, Isma'il Aqa, pluck and present to those same friends and enemies on the occasion of their visits to Him.
In the early part of the winter of 1907 another Commission of four officers, headed by Arif Bey, and invested with plenary powers, was suddenly dispatched to Akka by order of the Sultan. A few daysPage 270
before its arrival Abdu'l-Bahá had a dream, which He recounted to the believers, in which He saw a ship cast anchor off Akka, from which flew a few birds, resembling sticks of dynamite, and which, circling about His head, as He stood in the midst of a multitude of the frightened inhabitants of the city, returned without exploding to the ship.
No sooner had the members of the Commission landed than they placed under their direct and exclusive control both the Telegraph and Postal services in Akka; arbitrarily dismissed officials suspected of being friendly to Abdu'l-Bahá, including the governor of the city; established direct and secret contact with the government in Constantinople; took up their residence in the home of the neighbors and intimate associates of the Covenant-breakers; set guards over the house of Abdu'l-Bahá to prevent any one from seeing Him; and started the strange procedure of calling up as witnesses the very people, among whom were Christians and Moslems, orientals and westerners, who had previously signed the documents forwarded to Constantinople, and which they had brought with them for the purpose of their investigations.
The activities of the Covenant-breakers, and particularly of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, now jubilant and full of hope, rose in this hour of extreme crisis, to the highest pitch. Visits, interviews and entertainments multiplied, in an atmosphere of fervid expectation, now that the victory was seen to be at hand. Not a few among the lower elements of the population were led to believe that their acquisition of the property which would be left behind by the deported exiles was imminent. Insults and calumnies markedly increased. Even some of the poor, so long and so bountifully succored by Abdu'l-Bahá, forsook Him for fear of reprisals.
Abdu'l-Bahá, while the members of the Commission were carrying on their so-called investigations, and throughout their stay of about one month in Akka, consistently refused to meet or have any dealings with any of them, in spite of the veiled threats and warnings conveyed by them to Him through a messenger, an attitude which greatly surprised them and served to inflame their animosity and reinforce their determination to execute their evil designs. Though the perils and tribulations which had encompassed Him were now at their thickest, though the ship on which He was supposed to embark with the members of the Commission was waiting in readiness, at times in Akka, at times in Haifa, and the wildest rumors were being spread about Him, the serenity He had invariably maintained, everPage 271
since His incarceration had been reimposed, remained unclouded, and His confidence unshaken. "The meaning of the dream I dreamt," He, at that time, told the believers who still remained in Akka, "is now clear and evident. Please God this dynamite will not explode."
Meanwhile the members of the Commission had, on a certain Friday, gone to Haifa and inspected the Báb's sepulcher, the construction of which had been proceeding without any interruption on Mt. Carmel. Impressed by its solidity and dimensions, they had inquired of one of the attendants as to the number of vaults that had been built beneath that massive structure.
Shortly after the inspection had been made it was suddenly observed, one day at about sunset, that the ship, which had been lying off Haifa, had weighed anchor, and was heading towards Akka. The news spread rapidly among an excited population that the members of the Commission had embarked upon it. It was anticipated that it would stop long enough at Akka to take Abdu'l-Bahá on board, and then proceed to its destination. Consternation and anguish seized the members of His family when informed of the approach of the ship. The few believers who were left wept with grief at their impending separation from their Master. Abdu'l-Bahá could be seen, at that tragic hour, pacing, alone and silent, the courtyard of His house.
As dusk fell, however, it was suddenly noticed that the lights of the ship had swung round, and the vessel had changed her course. It now became evident that she was sailing direct for Constantinople. The intelligence was instantly communicated to Abdu'l-Bahá, Who, in the gathering darkness, was still pacing His courtyard. Some of the believers who had posted themselves at different points to watch the progress of the ship hurried to confirm the joyful tidings. One of the direst perils that had ever threatened Abdu'l-Bahá'í precious life was, on that historic day, suddenly, providentially and definitely averted.
Soon after the precipitate and wholly unexpected sailing of that ship news was received that a bomb had exploded in the path of the Sultan while he was returning to his palace from the mosque where he had been offering his Friday prayers.
A few days after this attempt on his life the Commission submitted its report to him; but he and his government were too preoccupied to consider the matter. The case was laid aside, and when, some months later, it was again brought forward it was abruptly closed forever by an event which, once and for all, placed the Prisoner of Akka beyond the power of His royal enemy. The "Young Turk" Revolution, breaking out swiftly and decisively in 1908, forcedPage 272
a reluctant despot to promulgate the constitution which he had suspended, and to release all religious and political prisoners held under the old regime. Even then a telegram had to be sent to Constantinople to inquire specifically whether Abdu'l-Bahá was included in the category of these prisoners, to which an affirmative reply was promptly received.
Within a few months, in 1909, the Young Turks obtained from the Shaykhu'l-Islam the condemnation of the Sultan himself who, as a result of further attempts to overthrow the constitution, was finally and ignominiously deposed, deported and made a prisoner of state. On one single day of that same year there were executed no less than thirty-one leading ministers, pashas and officials, among whom were numbered notorious enemies of the Faith. Tripolitania itself, the scene of Abdu'l-Bahá'í intended exile was subsequently wrested from the Turks by Italy. Thus ended the reign of the "Great Assassin," "the most mean, cunning, untrustworthy and cruel intriguer of the long dynasty of Uthman," a reign "more disastrous in its immediate losses of territory and in the certainty of others to follow, and more conspicuous for the deterioration of the condition of his subjects, than that of any other of his twenty-three degenerate predecessors since the death of Sulayman the Magnificent."Page 273
Abdu'l-Bahá'í unexpected and dramatic release from His forty-year confinement dealt a blow to the ambitions cherished by the Covenant-breakers as devastating as that which, a decade before, had shattered their hopes of undermining His authority and of ousting Him from His God-given position. Now, on the very morrow of His triumphant liberation a third blow befell them as stunning as those which preceded it and hardly less spectacular than they. Within a few months of the historic decree which set Him free, in the very year that witnessed the downfall of Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid, that same power from on high which had enabled Abdu'l-Bahá to preserve inviolate the rights divinely conferred on Him, to establish His Father's Faith in the North American continent, and to triumph over His royal oppressor, enabled Him to achieve one of the most signal acts of His ministry: the removal of the Báb's remains from their place of concealment in Tihran to Mt. Carmel. He Himself testified, on more than one occasion, that the safe transfer of these remains, the construction of a befitting mausoleum to receive them, and their final interment with His own hands in their permanent resting-place constituted one of the three principal objectives which, ever since the inception of His mission, He had conceived it His paramount duty to achieve. This act indeed deserves to rank as one of the outstanding events in the first Bahá'í century.
As observed in a previous chapter the mangled bodies of the Báb and His fellow-martyr, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, were removed, in the middle of the second night following their execution, through the pious intervention of Haji Sulayman Khan, from the edge of the moat where they had been cast to a silk factory owned by one of the believers of Milan, and were laid the next day in a wooden casket, and thence carried to a place of safety. Subsequently, according to Bahá'u'lláh's instructions, they were transported to Tihran and placed in the shrine of Imam-Zadih Hasan. They were later removed to the residence of Haji Sulayman Khan himself in the Sar-Chashmih quarter of the city, and from his house were taken to the shrine of Imam-Zadih Ma'sum, where they remained concealed until the yearPage 274
1284 A.H. (1867-1868), when a Tablet, revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople, directed Mulla Ali-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi and Jamal-i-Burujirdi to transfer them without delay to some other spot, an instruction which, in view of the subsequent reconstruction of that shrine, proved to have been providential.
Unable to find a suitable place in the suburb of Shah Abdu'l-'Azim, Mulla Ali-Akbar and his companion continued their search until, on the road leading to Chashmih-'Ali, they came upon the abandoned and dilapidated Masjid-i-Masha'u'llah, where they deposited, within one of its walls, after dark, their precious burden, having first re-wrapt the remains in a silken shroud brought by them for that purpose. Finding the next day to their consternation that the hiding-place had been discovered, they clandestinely carried the casket through the gate of the capital direct to the house of Mirza Hasan-i-Vazir, a believer and son-in-law of Haji Mirza Siyyid Aliy-i-Tafrishi, the Majdu'l-Ashraf, where it remained for no less than fourteen months. The long-guarded secret of its whereabouts becoming known to the believers, they began to visit the house in such numbers that a communication had to be addressed by Mulla Ali-Akbar to Bahá'u'lláh, begging for guidance in the matter. Haji Shah Muhammad-i-Manshadi, surnamed Aminu'l-Bayan, was accordingly commissioned to receive the Trust from him, and bidden to exercise the utmost secrecy as to its disposal.
Assisted by another believer, Haji Shah Muhammad buried the casket beneath the floor of the inner sanctuary of the shrine of Imam-Zadih Zayd, where it lay undetected until Mirza Asadu'llah-i-Isfahani was informed of its exact location through a chart forwarded to him by Bahá'u'lláh. Instructed by Bahá'u'lláh to conceal it elsewhere, he first removed the remains to his own house in Tihran, after which they were deposited in several other localities such as the house of Husayn-'Aliy-i-Isfahani and that of Muhammad-Karim-i-'Attar, where they remained hidden until the year 1316 (1899) A.H., when, in pursuance of directions issued by Abdu'l-Bahá, this same Mirza Asadu'llah, together with a number of other believers, transported them by way of Isfahan, Kirmanshah, Baghdad and Damascus, to Beirut and thence by sea to Akka, arriving at their destination on the 19th of the month of Ramadan 1316 A.H. (January 31, 1899), fifty lunar years after the Báb's execution in Tabriz.
In the same year that this precious Trust reached the shores of the Holy Land and was delivered into the hands of Abdu'l-Bahá, He, accompanied by Dr. Ibrahim Khayru'llah, whom He had alreadyPage 275
honored with the titles of "Bahá'í Peter," "The Second Columbus" and "Conqueror of America," drove to the recently purchased site which had been blessed and selected by Bahá'u'lláh on Mt. Carmel, and there laid, with His own hands, the foundation-stone of the edifice, the construction of which He, a few months later, was to commence. About that same time, the marble sarcophagus, designed to receive the body of the Báb, an offering of love from the Bahá'ís of Rangoon, had, at Abdu'l-Bahá'í suggestion, been completed and shipped to Haifa.
No need to dwell on the manifold problems and preoccupations which, for almost a decade, continued to beset Abdu'l-Bahá until the victorious hour when He was able to bring to a final consummation the historic task entrusted to Him by His Father. The risks and perils with which Bahá'u'lláh and later His Son had been confronted in their efforts to insure, during half a century, the protection of those remains were but a prelude to the grave dangers which, at a later period, the Center of the Covenant Himself had to face in the course of the construction of the edifice designed to receive them, and indeed until the hour of His final release from His incarceration.
The long-drawn out negotiations with the shrewd and calculating owner of the building-site of the holy Edifice, who, under the influence of the Covenant-breakers, refused for a long time to sell; the exorbitant price at first demanded for the opening of a road leading to that site and indispensable to the work of construction; the interminable objections raised by officials, high and low, whose easily aroused suspicions had to be allayed by repeated explanations and assurances given by Abdu'l-Bahá Himself; the dangerous situation created by the monstrous accusations brought by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his associates regarding the character and purpose of that building; the delays and complications caused by Abdu'l-Bahá'í prolonged and enforced absence from Haifa, and His consequent inability to supervise in person the vast undertaking He had initiated -- all these were among the principal obstacles which He, at so critical a period in His ministry, had to face and surmount ere He could execute in its entirety the Plan, the outline of which Bahá'u'lláh had communicated to Him on the occasion of one of His visits to Mt. Carmel.
"Every stone of that building, every stone of the road leading to it," He, many a time was heard to remark, "I have with infinite tears and at tremendous cost, raised and placed in position." "One night," He, according to an eye-witness, once observed, "I was so hemmed in by My anxieties that I had no other recourse than to recite andPage 276
repeat over and over again a prayer of the Báb which I had in My possession, the recital of which greatly calmed Me. The next morning the owner of the plot himself came to Me, apologized and begged Me to purchase his property."
Finally, in the very year His royal adversary lost his throne, and at the time of the opening of the first American Bahá'í Convention, convened in Chicago for the purpose of creating a permanent national organization for the construction of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, Abdu'l-Bahá brought His undertaking to a successful conclusion, in spite of the incessant machinations of enemies both within and without. On the 28th of the month of Safar 1327 A.H., the day of the first Naw-Ruz (1909), which He celebrated after His release from His confinement, Abdu'l-Bahá had the marble sarcophagus transported with great labor to the vault prepared for it, and in the evening, by the light of a single lamp, He laid within it, with His own hands -- in the presence of believers from the East and from the West and in circumstances at once solemn and moving -- the wooden casket containing the sacred remains of the Báb and His companion.
When all was finished, and the earthly remains of the Martyr-Prophet of Shiraz were, at long last, safely deposited for their everlasting rest in the bosom of God's holy mountain, Abdu'l-Bahá, Who had cast aside His turban, removed His shoes and thrown off His cloak, bent low over the still open sarcophagus, His silver hair waving about His head and His face transfigured and luminous, rested His forehead on the border of the wooden casket, and, sobbing aloud, wept with such a weeping that all those who were present wept with Him. That night He could not sleep, so overwhelmed was He with emotion.
"The most joyful tidings is this," He wrote later in a Tablet announcing to His followers the news of this glorious victory, "that the holy, the luminous body of the Báb ... after having for sixty years been transferred from place to place, by reason of the ascendancy of the enemy, and from fear of the malevolent, and having known neither rest nor tranquillity has, through the mercy of the Abha Beauty, been ceremoniously deposited, on the day of Naw-Ruz, within the sacred casket, in the exalted Shrine on Mt. Carmel... By a strange coincidence, on that same day of Naw-Ruz, a cablegram was received from Chicago, announcing that the believers in each of the American centers had elected a delegate and sent to that city ... and definitely decided on the site and construction of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar."
With the transference of the remains of the Báb -- Whose advent marks the return of the Prophet Elijah -- to Mt. Carmel, and theirPage 277
interment in that holy mountain, not far from the cave of that Prophet Himself, the Plan so gloriously envisaged by Bahá'u'lláh, in the evening of His life, had been at last executed, and the arduous labors associated with the early and tumultuous years of the ministry of the appointed Center of His Covenant crowned with immortal success. A focal center of Divine illumination and power, the very dust of which Abdu'l-Bahá averred had inspired Him, yielding in sacredness to no other shrine throughout the Bahá'í world except the Sepulcher of the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation Himself, had been permanently established on that mountain, regarded from time immemorial as sacred. A structure, at once massive, simple and imposing; nestling in the heart of Carmel, the "Vineyard of God"; flanked by the Cave of Elijah on the west, and by the hills of Galilee on the east; backed by the plain of Sharon, and facing the silver-city of Akka, and beyond it the Most Holy Tomb, the Heart and Qiblih of the Bahá'í world; overshadowing the colony of German Templars who, in anticipation of the "coming of the Lord," had forsaken their homes and foregathered at the foot of that mountain, in the very year of Bahá'u'lláh's Declaration in Baghdad (1863), the mausoleum of the Báb had now, with heroic effort and in impregnable strength been established as "the Spot round which the Concourse on high circle in adoration." Events have already demonstrated through the extension of the Edifice itself, through the embellishment of its surroundings, through the acquisition of extensive endowments in its neighborhood, and through its proximity to the resting-places of the wife, the son and daughter of Bahá'u'lláh Himself, that it was destined to acquire with the passing of the years a measure of fame and glory commensurate with the high purpose that had prompted its founding. Nor will it, as the years go by, and the institutions revolving around the World Administrative Center of the future Bahá'í Commonwealth are gradually established, cease to manifest the latent potentialities with which that same immutable purpose has endowed it. Resistlessly will this Divine institution flourish and expand, however fierce the animosity which its future enemies may evince, until the full measure of its splendor will have been disclosed before the eyes of all mankind.
"Haste thee, O Carmel!" Bahá'u'lláh, significantly addressing that holy mountain, has written, "for lo, the light of the Countenance of God ... hath been lifted upon thee... Rejoice, for God hath, in this Day, established upon thee His throne, hath made thee the dawning-place of His signs and the dayspring of the evidences of HisPage 278
Revelation. Well is it with him that circleth around thee, that proclaimeth the revelation of thy glory, and recounteth that which the bounty of the Lord thy God hath showered upon thee." "Call out to Zion, O Carmel!" He, furthermore, has revealed in that same Tablet, "and announce the joyful tidings: He that was hidden from mortal eyes is come! His all-conquering sovereignty is manifest; His all-encompassing splendor is revealed. Beware lest thou hesitate or halt. Hasten forth and circumambulate the City of God that hath descended from heaven, the celestial Kaaba round which have circled in adoration the favored of God, the pure in heart, and the company of the most exalted angels."Page 279
The establishment of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in the Western Hemisphere -- the most outstanding achievement that will forever be associated with Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry -- had, as observed in the preceding pages, set in motion such tremendous forces, and been productive of such far-reaching results, as to warrant the active and personal participation of the Center of the Covenant Himself in those epoch-making activities which His Western disciples had, through the propelling power of that Covenant, boldly initiated and were vigorously prosecuting.
The crisis which the blindness and perversity of the Covenant-breakers had precipitated, and which, for several years, had so tragically interfered with the execution of Abdu'l-Bahá'í purpose, was now providentially resolved. An unsurmountable barrier had been suddenly lifted from His path, His fetters were unlocked, and God's avenging wrath had taken the chains from His neck and placed them upon that of Abdu'l-Hamid, His royal adversary and the dupe of His most implacable enemy. The sacred remains of the Báb, entrusted to His hands by His departed Father, had, moreover, with immense difficulty been transferred from their hiding-place in far-off Tihran to the Holy Land, and deposited ceremoniously and reverently by Him in the bosom of Mt. Carmel.
Abdu'l-Bahá was at this time broken in health. He suffered from several maladies brought on by the strains and stresses of a tragic life spent almost wholly in exile and imprisonment. He was on the threshold of three-score years and ten. Yet as soon as He was released from His forty-year long captivity, as soon as He had laid the Báb's body in a safe and permanent resting-place, and His mind was free of grievous anxieties connected with the execution of that priceless Trust, He arose with sublime courage, confidence and resolution to consecrate what little strength remained to Him, in the evening of His life, to a service of such heroic proportions that no parallel to it is to be found in the annals of the first Bahá'í century.
Indeed His three years of travel, first to Egypt, then to Europe and later to America, mark, if we would correctly appraise their historic importance, a turning point of the utmost significance inPage 280
the history of the century. For the first time since the inception of the Faith, sixty-six years previously, its Head and supreme Representative burst asunder the shackles which had throughout the ministries of both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh so grievously fettered its freedom. Though repressive measures still continued to circumscribe the activities of the vast majority of its adherents in the land of its birth, its recognized Leader was now vouchsafed a freedom of action which, with the exception of a brief interval in the course of the War of 1914-18, He was to continue to enjoy to the end of His life, and which has never since been withdrawn from its institutions at its world center.
So momentous a change in the fortunes of the Faith was the signal for such an outburst of activity on His part as to dumbfound His followers in East and West with admiration and wonder, and exercise an imperishable influence on the course of its future history. He Who, in His own words, had entered prison as a youth and left it an old man, Who never in His life had faced a public audience, had attended no school, had never moved in Western circles, and was unfamiliar with Western customs and language, had arisen not only to proclaim from pulpit and platform, in some of the chief capitals of Europe and in the leading cities of the North American continent, the distinctive verities enshrined in His Father's Faith, but to demonstrate as well the Divine origin of the Prophets gone before Him, and to disclose the nature of the tie binding them to that Faith.
Inflexibly resolved to undertake this arduous voyage, at whatever cost to His strength, at whatever risk to His life, He, quietly and without any previous warning, on a September afternoon, of the year 1910, the year following that which witnessed the downfall of Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid and the formal entombment of the Báb's remains on Mt. Carmel, sailed for Egypt, sojourned for about a month in Port Said, and from thence embarked with the intention of proceeding to Europe, only to discover that the condition of His health necessitated His landing again at Alexandria and postponing His voyage. Fixing His residence in Ramleh, a suburb of Alexandria, and later visiting Zaytun and Cairo, He, on August 11 of the ensuing year, sailed with a party of four, on the S.S. Corsica, for Marseilles, and proceeded, after a brief stop at Thonon-les-Bains, to London, where He arrived on September 4, 1911. After a visit of about a month, He went to Paris, where He stayed for a period of nine weeks, returning to Egypt in December, 1911. Again taking up His residence in Ramleh, where He passed the winter, He embarked, onPage 281
His second journey to the West, on the steamship Cedric, on March 25, 1912, sailing via Naples direct to New York where He arrived on April 11. After a prolonged tour of eight months' duration, which carried Him from coast to coast, and in the course of which He visited Washington, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Montclair, Boston, Worcester, Brooklyn, Fanwood, Milford, Philadelphia, West Englewood, Jersey City, Cambridge, Medford, Morristown, Dublin, Green Acre, Montreal, Malden, Buffalo, Kenosha, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Omaha, Lincoln, Denver, Glenwood Springs, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Oakland, Palo Alto, Berkeley, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Cincinnati, and Baltimore, He sailed, on the S.S. Celtic, on December 5, from New York for Liverpool; and landing there He proceeded by train to London. Later He visited Oxford, Edinburgh and Bristol, and thence returning to London, left for Paris on January 21, 1913. On March 30 He traveled to Stuttgart, and from there proceeded, on April 9, to Budapest, visited Vienna nine days later, returned to Stuttgart on April 25, and to Paris on May first, where He remained until June 12, sailing the following day, on the S.S. Himalaya from Marseilles bound for Egypt, arriving in Port Said four days later, where after short visits to Isma'iliyyih and Abuqir, and a prolonged stay in Ramleh, He returned to Haifa, concluding His historic journeys on December 5, 1913.
It was in the course of these epoch-making journeys and before large and representative audiences, at times exceeding a thousand people, that Abdu'l-Bahá expounded, with brilliant simplicity, with persuasiveness and force, and for the first time in His ministry, those basic and distinguishing principles of His Father's Faith, which together with the laws and ordinances revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas constitute the bed-rock of God's latest Revelation to mankind. The independent search after truth, unfettered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of human kind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rankPage 282
of worship; the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind -- these stand out as the essential elements of that Divine polity which He proclaimed to leaders of public thought as well as to the masses at large in the course of these missionary journeys. The exposition of these vitalizing truths of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, which He characterized as the "spirit of the age," He supplemented with grave and reiterated warnings of an impending conflagration which, if the statesmen of the world should fail to avert, would set ablaze the entire continent of Europe. He, moreover, predicted, in the course of these travels, the radical changes which would take place in that continent, foreshadowed the movement of the decentralization of political power which would inevitably be set in motion, alluded to the troubles that would overtake Turkey, anticipated the persecution of the Jews on the European continent, and categorically asserted that the "banner of the unity of mankind would be hoisted, that the tabernacle of universal peace would be raised and the world become another world."
During these travels Abdu'l-Bahá displayed a vitality, a courage, a single-mindedness, a consecration to the task He had set Himself to achieve that excited the wonder and admiration of those who had the privilege of observing at close hand His daily acts. Indifferent to the sights and curiosities which habitually invite the attention of travelers and which the members of His entourage often wished Him to visit; careless alike of His comfort and His health; expending every ounce of His energy day after day from dawn till late at night; consistently refusing any gifts or contributions towards the expenses of His travels; unfailing in His solicitude for the sick, the sorrowful and the down-trodden; uncompromising in His championship of the underprivileged races and classes; bountiful as the rain in His generosity to the poor; contemptuous of the attacks launched against Him by vigilant and fanatical exponents of orthodoxy and sectarianism; marvelous in His frankness while demonstrating, from platform and pulpit, the prophetic Mission of Jesus Christ to the Jews, of the Divine origin of Islam in churches and synagogues, or the truth of Divine Revelation and the necessity of religion to materialists, atheists or agnostics; unequivocal in His glorification of Bahá'u'lláh at all times and within the sanctuaries of divers sects and denominations; adamant in His refusal, on several occasions, to curry the favor of people of title and wealth both in England and in thePage 283
United States; and last but not least incomparable in the spontaneity, the genuineness and warmth of His sympathy and loving-kindness shown to friend and stranger alike, believer and unbeliever, rich and poor, high and low, whom He met, either intimately or casually, whether on board ship, or whilst pacing the streets, in parks or public squares, at receptions or banquets, in slums or mansions, in the gatherings of His followers or the assemblage of the learned, He, the incarnation of every Bahá'í virtue and the embodiment of every Bahá'í ideal, continued for three crowded years to trumpet to a world sunk in materialism and already in the shadow of war, the healing, the God-given truths enshrined in His Father's Revelation.
In the course of His several visits to Egypt He had more than one interview with the Khedive, Abbas Hilmi Pasha II, was introduced to Lord Kitchener, met the Mufti, Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit, as well as the Khedive's Imam, Shaykh Muhammad Rashid, and associated with several ulamas, pashas, Persian notables, members of the Turkish Parliament, editors of leading newspapers in Cairo and Alexandria, and other leaders and representatives of well-known institutions, both religious and secular.
Whilst He sojourned in England the house placed at His disposal in Cadogan Gardens became a veritable mecca to all sorts and conditions of men, thronging to visit the Prisoner of Akka Who had chosen their great city as the first scene of His labors in the West. "O, these pilgrims, these guests, these visitors!" thus bears witness His devoted hostess during the time He spent in London, "Remembering those days, our ears are filled with the sound of their footsteps -- as they came from every country in the world. Every day, all day long, a constant stream, an interminable procession! Ministers and missionaries, oriental scholars and occult students, practical men of affairs and mystics, Anglicans, Catholics, and Non-conformists, Theosophists and Hindus, Christian Scientists and doctors of medicine, Muslims, Buddhists and Zoroastrians. There also called: politicians, Salvation Army soldiers, and other workers for human good, women suffragists, journalists, writers, poets and healers, dressmakers and great ladies, artists and artisans, poor workless people and prosperous merchants, members of the dramatic and musical world, these all came; and none were too lowly, nor too great, to receive the sympathetic consideration of this holy Messenger, Who was ever giving His life for others' good."
Abdu'l-Bahá'í first public appearance before a western audience significantly enough took place in a Christian house of worship, when,Page 284
on September 10, 1911, He addressed an overflowing congregation from the pulpit of the City Temple. Introduced by the Pastor, the Reverend R. J. Campbell, He, in simple and moving language, and with vibrant voice, proclaimed the unity of God, affirmed the fundamental oneness of religion, and announced that the hour of the unity of the sons of men, of all races, religions and classes had struck. On another occasion, on September 17, at the request of the Venerable Archdeacon Wilberforce, He addressed the congregation of St. John the Divine, at Westminster, after evening service, choosing as His theme the transcendental greatness of the Godhead, as affirmed and elucidated by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Iqan. "The Archdeacon," wrote a contemporary of that event, "had the Bishop's chair placed for his Guest on the chancel steps, and, standing beside Him, read the translation of Abdu'l-Bahá'í address himself. The congregation was profoundly moved, and, following the Archdeacon's example, knelt to receive the blessing of the Servant of God -- Who stood with extended arms -- His wonderful voice rising and falling in the silence with the power of His invocation."
At the invitation of the Lord Mayor of London He breakfasted with him at the Mansion House; addressed the Theosophical Society at their headquarters, at the express request of their President, and also a Meeting of the Higher Thought center in London; was invited by a deputation from the Bramo-Somaj Society to deliver a lecture under their auspices; visited and delivered an address on world unity at the Mosque at Woking, at the invitation of the Muslim Community of Great Britain, and was entertained by Persian princes, noblemen, ex-ministers and members of the Persian Legation in London. He stayed as a guest in Dr. T. K. Cheyne's home in Oxford, and He delivered an address to "a large and deeply interested audience," highly academic in character, gathered at Manchester College in that city, and presided over by Dr. Estlin Carpenter. He also spoke from the pulpit of a Congregational Church in the East End of London, in response to the request of its Pastor; addressed gatherings in Caxton Hall and Westminster Hall, the latter under the chairmanship of Sir Thomas Berkeley, and witnessed a performance of "Eager Heart," a Christmas mystery play at the Church House, Westminster, the first dramatic performance He had ever beheld, and which in its graphic depiction of the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ moved Him to tears. In the Hall of the Passmore Edwards' Settlement, in Tavistock Place, he spoke to an audience of about four hundred and sixty representative people, presided over by Prof. Michael Sadler, called onPage 285
a number of working women of that Settlement, who were on holiday at Vanners', in Byfleet, some twenty miles out of London, and paid a second visit there, meeting on that occasion people of every condition who had specially gathered to see Him, among whom were "the clergy of several denominations, a headmaster of a boys' public school, a member of Parliament, a doctor, a famous political writer, the vice-chancellor of a university, several journalists, a well-known poet, and a magistrate from London." "He will long be remembered," wrote a chronicler of His visit to England, describing that occasion, "as He sat in the bow window in the afternoon sunshine, His arm round a very ragged but very happy little boy who had come to ask Abdu'l-Bahá for sixpence for his money box and for his invalid mother, whilst round Him in the room were gathered men and women discussing Education, Socialism, the first Reform Bill, and the relation of submarines and wireless telegraphy to the new era on which man is entering."
Among those who called on Him during the memorable days He spent in England and Scotland were the Reverend Archdeacon Wilberforce, the Reverend R. J. Campbell, the Reverend Rhonddha Williams, the Reverend Roland Corbet, Lord Lamington, Sir Richard and Lady Stapley, Sir Michael Sadler, the Jalalu'd-Dawlih, son of the Zillu's-Sultan, Sir Ameer Ali, the late Maharaja of Jalawar, who paid Him many visits and gave an elaborate dinner and reception in His honor, the Maharaja of Rajputana, the Ranee of Sarawak, Princess Karadja, Baroness Barnekov, Lady Wemyss and her sister, Lady Glencomer, Lady Agnew, Miss Constance Maud, Prof. E. G. Browne, Prof. Patrick Geddes, Mr. Albert Dawson, editor of the Christian Commonwealth, Mr. David Graham Pole, Mrs. Annie Besant, Mrs. Pankhurst, and Mr. Stead, who had long and earnest conversations with Him. "Very numerous," His hostess, describing the impression produced on those who were accorded by Him the privilege of a private audience, has written, "were these applicants for so unique an experience, how unique only those knew when in the presence of the Master, and we could partly divine, as we saw the look on their faces as they emerged -- a look as though blended of awe, of marveling, and of a certain calm joy. Sometimes we were conscious of reluctance in them to come forth into the outer world, as though they would hold fast to their beatitude, lest the return of things of earth should wrest it from them." "A profound impression," the aforementioned chronicler has recorded, summing up the results produced by that memorable visit, "remained in the minds and memories of all sortsPage 286
and conditions of men and women.... Very greatly was Abdu'l-Bahá'í sojourn in London appreciated; very greatly His departure regretted. He left behind Him many, many friends. His love had kindled love. His heart had opened to the West, and the Western heart had closed around this patriarchal presence from the East. His words had in them something that appealed not only to their immediate hearers, but to men and women generally."
His visits to Paris, where for a time He occupied an apartment in the Avenue de Camoens, were marked by a warmth of welcome no less remarkable than the reception accorded Him by His friends and followers in London. "During the Paris visit," that same devoted English hostess, Lady Blomfield, who had followed Him to that city, has testified, "as it had been in London, daily happenings took on the atmosphere of spiritual events.... Every morning, according to His custom, the Master expounded the principles of the teaching of Bahá'u'lláh to those who gathered round Him, the learned and the unlearned, eager and respectful. They were of all nationalities and creeds, from the East and from the West, including Theosophists, agnostics, materialists, spiritualists, Christian Scientists, social reformers, Hindus, Sufis, Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and many others." And again: "Interview followed interview. Church dignitaries of various branches of the Christian Tree came, some earnestly desirous of finding new aspects of the Truth.... Others there were who stopped their ears, lest they should hear and understand."
Persian princes, noblemen and ex-ministers, among them the Zillu's-Sultan, the Persian Minister, the Turkish Ambassador in Paris, Rashid Pasha, an ex-vali of Beirut, Turkish pashas and ex-ministers, and Viscount Arawaka, Japanese Ambassador to the Court of Spain, were among those who had the privilege of attaining His presence. Gatherings of Esperantists and Theosophists, students of the Faculty of Theology and large audiences at l'Alliance Spiritualiste were addressed by Him; at a Mission Hall, in a very poor quarter of the city, He addressed a congregation at the invitation of the Pastor, whilst in numerous meetings of His followers those already familiar with His teachings were privileged to hear from His lips detailed and frequent expositions of certain aspects of His Father's Faith.
In Stuttgart, where He made a brief but never-to-be-forgotten stay, and to which He traveled in spite of ill-health in order to establish personal contact with the members of the community of His enthusiastic and dearly beloved German friends, He, apart from attending the gatherings of His devoted followers, bestowed HisPage 287
abundant blessings on the members of the Youth group, gathered at Esslingen, and addressed, at the invitation of Professor Christale, President of the Esperantists of Europe, a large meeting of Esperantists at their club. He, moreover, visited Bad Mergentheim, in Wurttemberg, where a few years later (1915) a monument was erected in memory of His visit by one of His grateful disciples. "The humility, love and devotion of the German believers," wrote an eyewitness, "rejoiced the heart of Abdu'l-Bahá, and they received His blessings and His words of encouraging counsel in complete submissiveness. ...Friends came from far and near to see the Master. There was a constant flow of visitors at the Hotel Marquart. There Abdu'l-Bahá received them with such love and graciousness that they became radiant with joy and happiness."
In Vienna, where He stayed a few days, Abdu'l-Bahá addressed a gathering of Theosophists in that city, whilst in Budapest He granted an interview to the President of the University, met on a number of occasions the famous Orientalist Prof. Arminius Vambery, addressed the Theosophical Society, and was visited by the President of the Turanian, and representatives of the Turkish Societies, army officers, several members of Parliament, and a deputation of Young Turks, led by Prof. Julius Germanus, who accorded Him a hearty welcome to the city. "During this time," is the written testimony of Dr. Rusztem Vambery, "His (Abdu'l-Bahá) room in the Dunapalota Hotel became a veritable mecca for all those whom the mysticism of the East and the wisdom of its Master attracted into its magic circle. Among His visitors were Count Albert Apponyi, Prelate Alexander Giesswein, Professor Ignatius Goldziher, the Orientalist of world-wide renown, Professor Robert A. Nadler, the famous Budapest painter, and leader of the Hungarian Theosophical Society."
It was reserved, however, for the North American continent to witness the most astonishing manifestation of the boundless vitality Abdu'l-Bahá exhibited in the course of these journeys. The remarkable progress achieved by the organized community of His followers in the United States and Canada, the marked receptivity of the American public to His Message, as well as His consciousness of the high destiny awaiting the people of that continent, fully warranted the expenditure of time and energy which he devoted to this most important phase of His travels. A visit which entailed a journey of over five thousand miles, which lasted from April to December, which carried Him from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast and back, which elicited discourses of such number as to fill no less than three volumes,Page 288
was to mark the climax of those journeys, and was fully justified by the far-reaching results which He well knew such labors on His part would produce. "This long voyage," He told His assembled followers on the occasion of His first meeting with them in New York, "will prove how great is My love for you. There were many troubles and vicissitudes, but in the thought of meeting you, all these things vanished and were forgotten."
The character of the acts He performed fully demonstrated the importance He attached to that visit. The laying, with His own hands, of the dedication stone of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, by the shore of Lake Michigan, in the vicinity of Chicago, on the recently purchased property, and in the presence of a representative gathering of Bahá'ís from East and West; the dynamic affirmation by Him of the implications of the Covenant instituted by Bahá'u'lláh, following the reading of the newly translated Tablet of the Branch, in a general assembly of His followers in New York, designated henceforth as the "City of the Covenant"; the moving ceremony in Inglewood, California, marking His special pilgrimage to the grave of Thornton Chase, the "first American believer," and indeed the first to embrace the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh in the Western world; the symbolic Feast He Himself offered to a large gathering of His disciples assembled in the open air, and in the green setting of a June day at West Englewood, in New Jersey; the blessing He bestowed on the Open Forum at Green Acre, in Maine, on the banks of the Piscataqua River, where many of His followers had gathered, and which was to evolve into one of the first Bahá'í summer schools of the Western Hemisphere and be recognized as one of the earliest endowments established in the American continent; His address to an audience of several hundred attending the last session of the newly-founded Bahá'í Temple Unity held in Chicago; and, last but not least, the exemplary act He performed by uniting in wedlock two of His followers of different nationalities, one of the white, the other of the Negro race -- these must rank among the outstanding functions associated with His visit to the community of the American believers, functions designed to pave the way for the erection of their central House of Worship, to fortify them against the tests they were soon to endure, to cement their unity, and to bless the beginnings of that Administrative Order which they were soon to initiate and champion.
No less remarkable were Abdu'l-Bahá'í public activities in the course of His association with the multitude of people with whom He came in contact during His tour across a continent. A full accountPage 289
of these diversified activities which crowded His days during no less than eight months, would be beyond the scope of this survey. Suffice it to say that in the city of New York alone He delivered public addresses in, and made formal visits to, no less than fifty-five different places. Peace societies, Christian and Jewish congregations, colleges and universities, welfare and charitable organizations, members of ethical cults, New Thought centers, metaphysical groups, Women's clubs, scientific associations, gatherings of Esperantists, Theosophists, Mormons, and agnostics, institutions for the advancement of the colored people, representatives of the Syrian, the Armenian, the Greek, the Chinese, and Japanese communities -- all were brought into contact with His dynamic presence, and were privileged to hear from His lips His Father's Message. Nor was the press either in its editorial comment or in the publication of reports of His lectures, slow to appreciate the breadth of His vision or the character of His summons.
His discourse at the Peace Conferences at Lake Mohonk; His addresses to large gatherings at Columbia, Howard and New York Universities; His participation in the fourth annual conference of the National Association for the Advancement of the Colored People; His fearless assertion of the truth of the prophetic Missions of both Jesus Christ and Muhammad in Temple Emmanu-El, a Jewish synagogue in San Francisco, where no less than two thousand people were gathered; His illuminating discourse before an audience of eighteen hundred students and one hundred and eighty teachers and professors at Leland Stanford University; His memorable visit to the Bowery Mission in the slums of New York; the brilliant reception given in His honor in Washington, at which many outstanding figures in the social life of the capital were presented to Him -- these stand out as the highlights of the unforgettable Mission He undertook in the service of His Father's Cause. Secretaries of State, Ambassadors, Congressmen, distinguished rabbis and churchmen, and other people of eminence attained His presence, among whom were such figures as Dr. D. S. Jordan, President of Leland Stanford University, Prof. Jackson of Columbia University, Prof. Jack of Oxford University, Rabbi Stephen Wise of New York, Dr. Martin A. Meyer, Rabbi Joseph L. Levy, Rabbi Abram Simon, Alexander Graham Bell, Rabindranath Tagore, Hon. Franklin K. Lane, Mrs. William Jennings Bryan, Andrew Carnegie, Hon. Franklin MacVeagh, Secretary of the United States Treasury, Lee McClung, Mr. Roosevelt, Admiral Wain Wright, Admiral Peary, the British, Dutch and Swiss MinistersPage 290
in Washington, Yusuf Diya Pasha, the Turkish Ambassador in that city, Thomas Seaton, Hon. William Sulzer and Prince Muhammad-'Ali of Egypt, the Khedive's brother.
"When Abdu'l-Bahá visited this country for the first time in 1912," a commentator on His American travels has written, "He found a large and sympathetic audience waiting to greet Him personally and to receive from His own lips His loving and spiritual message. ...Beyond the words spoken there was something indescribable in His personality that impressed profoundly all who came into His presence. The dome-like head, the patriarchal beard, the eyes that seemed to have looked beyond the reach of time and sense, the soft yet clearly penetrating voice, the translucent humility, the never failing love, -- but above all, the sense of power mingled with gentleness that invested His whole being with a rare majesty of spiritual exaltation that both set Him apart, and yet that brought Him near to the lowliest soul, -- it was all this, and much more that can never be defined, that have left with His many ... friends, memories that are ineffaceable and unspeakably precious."
A survey, however inadequate of the varied and immense activities of Abdu'l-Bahá in His tour of Europe and America cannot leave without mention some of the strange incidents that would often accompany personal contact with Him. The bold determination of a certain indomitable youth who, fearing Abdu'l-Bahá would not be able to visit the Western states, and unable himself to pay for a train journey to New England, had traveled all the way from Minneapolis to Maine lying on the rods between the wheels of a train; the transformation effected in the life of the son of a country rector in England, who, in his misery and poverty, had resolved, whilst walking along the banks of the Thames, to put an end to his existence, and who, at the sight of Abdu'l-Bahá'í photograph displayed in a shop window, had inquired about Him, hurried to His residence, and been so revived by His words of cheer and comfort as to abandon all thought of self-destruction; the extraordinary experience of a woman whose little girl, as the result of a dream she had had, insisted that Jesus Christ was in the world, and who, at the sight of Abdu'l-Bahá'í picture exposed in the window of a magazine store, had instantly identified it as that of the Jesus Christ of her dream -- an act which impelled her mother, after reading that Abdu'l-Bahá was in Paris, to take the next boat for Europe and hasten to attain His presence; the decision of the editor of a journal printed in Japan to break his journey to Tokyo at Constantinople, and travel to London for "thePage 291
joy of spending one evening in His presence"; the touching scene when Abdu'l-Bahá, receiving from the hands of a Persian friend, recently arrived in London from Ishqabad, a cotton handkerchief containing a piece of dry black bread and a shrivelled apple -- the offering of a poor Bahá'í workman in that city -- opened it before His assembled guests, and, leaving His luncheon untouched, broke pieces off that bread, and partaking Himself of it shared it with those who were present -- these are but a few of a host of incidents that shed a revealing light on some personal aspects of His memorable journeys.
Nor can certain scenes revolving around that majestic and patriarchal Figure, as He moved through the cities of Europe and America, be ever effaced from memory. The remarkable interview at which Abdu'l-Bahá, while placing lovingly His hand on the head of Archdeacon Wilberforce, answered his many questions, whilst that distinguished churchman sat on a low chair by His side; the still more remarkable scene when that same Archdeacon, after having knelt with his entire congregation to receive His benediction at St. John's the Divine, passed down the aisle to the vestry hand in hand with his Guest, whilst a hymn was being sung by the entire assembly standing; the sight of Jalalu'd-Dawlih, fallen prostrate at His feet, profuse in his apologies and imploring His forgiveness for his past iniquities; the enthusiastic reception accorded Him at Leland Stanford University when, before the gaze of well nigh two thousand professors and students, He discoursed on some of the noblest truths underlying His message to the West; the touching spectacle at Bowery Mission when four hundred of the poor of New York filed past Him, each receiving a piece of silver from His blessed hands; the acclamation of a Syrian woman in Boston who, pushing aside the crowd that had gathered around Him, flung herself at His feet, exclaiming, "I confess that in Thee I have recognized the Spirit of God and Jesus Christ Himself"; the no less fervent tribute paid Him by two admiring Arabs who, as He was leaving that city for Dublin, N. H., cast themselves before Him, and, sobbing aloud, avowed that He was God's own Messenger to mankind; the vast congregation of two thousand Jews assembled in a synagogue in San Francisco, intently listening to His discourse as He demonstrated the validity of the claims advanced by both Jesus Christ and Muhammad; the gathering He addressed one night in Montreal, at which, in the course of His speech, His turban fell from His head, so carried away was He by the theme He was expounding; the boisterous crowd in a very poor quarter of Paris, who, awed by His presence, reverently and silentlyPage 292
made way for Him as He passed through their midst, while returning from a Mission Hall whose congregation He had been addressing; the characteristic gesture of a Zoroastrian physician who, arriving in breathless haste on the morning of Abdu'l-Bahá'í departure from London to bid Him farewell, anointed with fragrant oil first His head and His breast, and then, touching the hands of all present, placed round His neck and shoulders a garland of rosebuds and lilies; the crowd of visitors arriving soon after dawn, patiently waiting on the doorsteps of His house in Cadogan Gardens until the door would be opened for their admittance; His majestic figure as He paced with a vigorous step the platform, or stood with hands upraised to pronounce the benediction, in church and synagogue alike, and before vast audiences of reverent listeners; the unsolicited mark of respect shown Him by distinguished society women in London, who would spontaneously curtsy when ushered into His presence; the poignant sight when He stooped low to the grave of His beloved disciple, Thornton Chase, in Inglewood Cemetery, and kissed his tombstone, an example which all those present hastened to follow; the distinguished gathering of Christians, Jews and Muslims, men and women and representative of both the East and the West, assembled to hear His discourse on world unity in the mosque at Woking -- such scenes as these, even in the cold record of the printed page, must still have much of their original impressiveness and power.
Who knows what thoughts flooded the heart of Abdu'l-Bahá as He found Himself the central figure of such memorable scenes as these? Who knows what thoughts were uppermost in His mind as He sat at breakfast beside the Lord Mayor of London, or was received with extraordinary deference by the Khedive himself in his palace, or as He listened to the cries of "Allah-u-Abha" and to the hymns of thanksgiving and praise that would herald His approach to the numerous and brilliant assemblages of His enthusiastic followers and friends organized in so many cities of the American continent? Who knows what memories stirred within Him as He stood before the thundering waters of Niagara, breathing the free air of a far distant land, or gazed, in the course of a brief and much-needed rest, upon the green woods and countryside in Glenwood Springs, or moved with a retinue of Oriental believers along the paths of the Trocadero gardens in Paris, or walked alone in the evening beside the majestic Hudson on Riverside Drive in New York, or as He paced the terrace of the Hotel du Parc at Thonon-les-Bains, overlooking the Lake of Geneva, or as He watched from Serpentine Bridge in London thePage 293
pearly chain of lights beneath the trees stretching as far as the eye could see? Memories of the sorrows, the poverty, the overhanging doom of His earlier years; memories of His mother who sold her gold buttons to provide Him, His brother and His sister with sustenance, and who was forced, in her darkest hours, to place a handful of dry flour in the palm of His hand to appease His hunger; of His own childhood when pursued and derided by a mob of ruffians in the streets of Tihran; of the damp and gloomy room, formerly a morgue, which He occupied in the barracks of Akka and of His imprisonment in the dungeon of that city -- memories such as these must surely have thronged His mind. Thoughts, too, must have visited Him of the Báb's captivity in the mountain fastnesses of Adhirbayjan, when at night time He was refused even a lamp, and of His cruel and tragic execution when hundreds of bullets riddled His youthful breast. Above all His thoughts must have centered on Bahá'u'lláh, Whom He loved so passionately and Whose trials He had witnessed and had shared from His boyhood. The vermin-infested Siyah-Chal of Tihran; the bastinado inflicted upon Him in Amul; the humble fare which filled His kashkul while He lived for two years the life of a dervish in the mountains of Kurdistan; the days in Baghdad when He did not even possess a change of linen, and when His followers subsisted on a handful of dates; His confinement behind the prison-walls of Akka, when for nine years even the sight of verdure was denied Him; and the public humiliation to which He was subjected at government headquarters in that city -- pictures from the tragic past such as these must have many a time overpowered Him with feelings of mingled gratitude and sorrow, as He witnessed the many marks of respect, of esteem, and honor now shown Him and the Faith which He represented. "O Bahá'u'lláh! What hast Thou done?" He, as reported by the chronicler of His travels, was heard to exclaim one evening as He was being swiftly driven to fulfil His third engagement of the day in Washington, "O Bahá'u'lláh! May my life be sacrificed for Thee! O Bahá'u'lláh! May my soul be offered up for Thy sake! How full were Thy days with trials and tribulations! How severe the ordeals Thou didst endure! How solid the foundation Thou hast finally laid, and how glorious the banner Thou didst hoist!" "One day, as He was strolling," that same chronicler has testified, "He called to remembrance the days of the Blessed Beauty, referring with sadness to His sojourn in Sulaymaniyyih, to His loneliness and to the wrongs inflicted upon Him. Though He had often recounted that episode, that day He was so overcome withPage 294
emotion that He sobbed aloud in His grief.... All His attendants wept with Him, and were plunged into sorrow as they heard the tale of the woeful trials endured by the Ancient Beauty, and witnessed the tenderness of heart manifested by His Son."
A most significant scene in a century-old drama had been enacted. A glorious chapter in the history of the first Bahá'í century had been written. Seeds of undreamt-of potentialities had, with the hand of the Center of the Covenant Himself, been sown in some of the fertile fields of the Western world. Never in the entire range of religious history had any Figure of comparable stature arisen to perform a labor of such magnitude and imperishable worth. Forces were unleashed through those fateful journeys which even now, at a distance of well nigh thirty-five years, we are unable to measure or comprehend. Already a Queen, inspired by the powerful arguments adduced by Abdu'l-Bahá in the course of His addresses in support of the Divinity of Muhammad, has proclaimed her faith, and borne public testimony to the Divine origin of the Prophet of Islam. Already a President of the United States, imbibing some of the principles so clearly enunciated by Him in His discourses, has incorporated them in a Peace Program which stands out as the boldest and noblest proposal yet made for the well-being and security of mankind. And already, alas! a world which proved deaf to His warnings and refused to heed His summons has plunged itself into two global wars of unprecedented severity, the repercussions of which none as yet can even dimly visualize.Page 295
Growth and Expansion of the Faith in East and West
Abdu'l-Bahá'í historic journeys to the West, and in particular His eight-month tour of the United States of America, may be said to have marked the culmination of His ministry, a ministry whose untold blessings and stupendous achievements only future generations can adequately estimate. As the day-star of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation had shone forth in its meridian splendor at the hour of the proclamation of His Message to the rulers of the earth in the city of Adrianople, so did the Orb of His Covenant mount its zenith and shed its brightest rays when He Who was its appointed Center arose to blazon the glory and greatness of His Father's Faith among the peoples of the West.
That divinely instituted Covenant had, shortly after its inception, demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt its invincible strength through its decisive triumph over the dark forces which its Arch-Breaker had with such determination arrayed against it. Its energizing power had soon after been proclaimed through the signal victories which its torch-bearers had so rapidly and courageously won in the far-off cities of Western Europe and the United States of America. Its high claims had, moreover, been fully vindicated through its ability to safeguard the unity and integrity of the Faith in both the East and the West. It had subsequently given further proof of its indomitable strength by the memorable victory it registered through the downfall of Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid, and the consequent release of its appointed Center from a forty-year captivity. It had provided for those still inclined to doubt its Divine origin yet another indisputable testimony to its solidity by enabling Abdu'l-Bahá, in the face of formidable obstacles, to effect the transfer and the final entombment of the Báb's remains in a mausoleum on Mt. Carmel. It had manifested also before all mankind, with a force and in a measure hitherto unapproached, its vast potentialities when it empowered Him in Whom its spirit and its purpose were enshrined to embark on a three-year-long mission to the Western world -- a mission so momentous that it deserves to rank as the greatest exploit ever to be associated with His ministry.Page 296
Nor were these, preeminent though they were, the sole fruits garnered through the indefatigable efforts exerted so heroically by the Center of that Covenant. The progress and extension of His Father's Faith in the East; the initiation of activities and enterprises which may be said to signalize the beginnings of a future Administrative Order; the erection of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world in the city of Ishqabad in Russian Turkistan; the expansion of Bahá'í literature; the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan; and the introduction of the Faith in the Australian continent -- these may be regarded as the outstanding achievements that have embellished the brilliant record of Abdu'l-Bahá'í unique ministry.
In Persia, the cradle of the Faith, despite the persecutions which, throughout the years of that ministry, persisted with unabated violence, a noticeable change, marking the gradual emergence of a proscribed community from its hitherto underground existence, could be clearly discerned. Nasiri'd-Din Shah, four years after Bahá'u'lláh's ascension, had, on the eve of his jubilee, designed to mark a turning-point in the history of his country, met his death at the hands of an assassin, named Mirza Rida, a follower of the notorious Siyyid Jamalu'd-Din-i-Afghani, an enemy of the Faith and one of the originators of the constitutional movement which, as it gathered momentum, during the reign of the Shah's son and successor, Muzaffari'd-Din, was destined to involve in further difficulties an already hounded and persecuted community. Even the Shah's assassination had at first been laid at the door of that community, as evidenced by the cruel death suffered, immediately after the murder of the sovereign, by the renowned teacher and poet, Mirza Ali-Muhammad, surnamed "Varqa" (Dove) by Bahá'u'lláh, who, together with his twelve-year-old son, Ruhu'llah, was inhumanly put to death in the prison of Tihran, by the brutal Hajibu'd-Dawlih, who, after thrusting his dagger into the belly of the father and cutting him into pieces, before the eyes of his son, adjured the boy to recant, and, meeting with a blunt refusal, strangled him with a rope.
Three years previously a youth, named Muhammad-Riday-i-Yazdi, was shot in Yazd, on the night of his wedding while proceeding from the public bath to his home, the first to suffer martyrdom during Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry. In Turbat-i-Haydariyyih, in consequence of the Shah's assassination, five persons, known as the Shuhaday-i-Khamsih (Five Martyrs), were put to death. In Mashhad a well-known merchant, Haji Muhammad-i-Tabrizi, was murdered and his corpse set on fire. An interview was granted by the newPage 297
sovereign and his Grand Vizir, the unprincipled and reactionary Mirza Ali-Asghar Khan, the Atabik-i-A'zam, to two representative followers of the Faith in Paris (1902), but it produced no real results whatever. On the contrary, a fresh storm of persecutions broke out a few years later, persecutions which, as the constitutional movement developed in that country, grew ever fiercer as reactionaries brought groundless accusations against the Baha'is, and publicly denounced them as supporters and inspirers of the nationalist cause.
A certain Muhammad-Javad was stripped naked in Isfahan, and was severely beaten with a whip of braided wires, while in Kashan the adherents of the Faith of Jewish extraction were fined, beaten and chained at the instigation of both the Muhammadan clergy and the Jewish doctors. It was, however, in Yazd and its environs that the most bloody outrages committed during Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry occurred. In that city Haji Mirzay-i-Halabi-Saz was so mercilessly flogged that his wife flung herself upon his body, and was in her turn severely beaten, after which his skull was lacerated by the cleaver of a butcher. His eleven-year-old son was pitilessly thrashed, stabbed with penknives and tortured to death. Within the space of half a day nine people met their death. A crowd of about six thousand people, of both sexes, vented their fury upon the helpless victims, a few going so far as to drink their blood. In some instances, as was the case with a man named Mirza Asadu'llah-i-Sabbagh, they plundered their property and fought over its possession. They evinced such cruelty that some of the government officials were moved to tears at the sight of the harrowing scenes in which the women of that city played a conspicuously shameful part.
In Taft several people were put to death, some of whom were shot and their bodies dragged through the streets. A newly converted eighteen-year-old youth, named Husayn, was denounced by his own father, and torn to pieces before the eyes of his mother, whilst Muhammad-Kamal was hacked into bits with knife, spade and pickaxe. In Manshad, where the persecutions lasted nineteen days, similar atrocities were perpetrated. An eighty-year-old man, named Siyyid Mirza, was instantly killed in his sleep by two huge stones which were thrown on him; a Mirza Sadiq, who asked for water, had a knife plunged into his breast, his executioner afterwards licking the blood from the blade, while Shatir-Hasan, one of the victims, was seen before his death distributing some candy in his possession among the executioners and dividing among them his clothing. A sixty-five year old woman, Khadijih-Sultan, was hurledPage 298
from the roof of a house; a believer named Mirza Muhammad was tied to a tree, made a target for hundreds of bullets and his body set on fire, whilst another, named Ustad Riday-i-Saffar, was seen to kiss the hand of his murderer, after which he was shot and his corpse heaped with insults.
In Banaduk, in Dih-Bala, in Farashah, in Abbas-Abad, in Hanza, in Ardikan, in Dawlat-Abad and in Hamadan crimes of similar nature were committed, an outstanding case being that of a highly respected and courageous woman, named Fatimih-Bagum, who was ignominiously dragged from her house, her veil was torn from her head, her throat cut across, her belly ripped open; and having been beaten by the savage crowd with every weapon they could lay hands on, she was finally suspended from a tree and delivered to the flames.
In Sari, in the days when the agitation for the constitution was moving towards a climax, five believers of recognized standing, known later as the Shuhaday-i-Khamsih (Five Martyrs), were done to death, whilst in Nayriz a ferocious assault, recalling that of Yazd, was launched by the enemy, in which nineteen lost their lives, among them the sixty-five year old Mulla Abdu'l-Hamid, a blind man who was shot and his body foully abused, and in the course of which a considerable amount of property was plundered, and numerous women and children had to flee for their lives, or seek refuge in mosques, or live in the ruins of their houses, or remain shelterless by the wayside.
In Sirjan, in Dugh-Abad, in Tabriz, in Avih, in Qum, in Najaf-Abad, in Sangsar, in Shahmirzad, in Isfahan, and in Jahrum redoubtable and remorseless enemies, both religious and political, continued, under various pretexts, and even after the signing of the Constitution by the Shah in 1906, and during the reign of his successors, Muhammad-'Ali Shah and Ahmad Shah, to slay, torture, plunder and abuse the members of a community who resolutely refused to either recant or deviate a hair's breadth from the path laid down for them by their Leaders. Even during Abdu'l-Bahá'í journeys to the West, and after His return to the Holy Land, and indeed till the end of His life, He continued to receive distressing news of the martyrdom of His followers, and of the outrages perpetrated against them by an insatiable enemy. In Dawlat-Abad, a prince of the royal blood, Habibu'llah Mirza by name, a convert to the Faith who had consecrated his life to its service, was slain with a hatchet and his corpse set on fire. In Mashhad the learned and pious ShaykhPage 299
Ali-Akbar-i-Quchani was shot to death. In Sultan-Abad, Mirza Ali-Akbar and seven members of his family including a forty day old infant were barbarously massacred. Persecutions of varying degrees of severity broke out in Na'in, in Shahmirzad, in Bandar-i-Jaz and in Qamsar. In Kirmanshah, the martyr Mirza Ya'qub-i-Muttahidih, the ardent twenty-five year old Jewish convert to the Faith, was the last to lay down his life during Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry; and his mother, according to his own instructions, celebrated his martyrdom in Hamadan with exemplary fortitude. In every instance the conduct of the believers testified to the indomitable spirit and unyielding tenacity that continued to distinguish the lives and services of the Persian followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
Despite these intermittent severe persecutions the Faith that had evoked in its heroes so rare a spirit of self-sacrifice was steadily and silently growing. Engulfed for a time and almost extinguished in the sombre days following the martyrdom of the Báb, driven underground throughout the period of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry, it began, after His ascension, under the unerring guidance, and as a result of the unfailing solicitude, of a wise, a vigilant and loving Master, to gather its forces, and gradually to erect the embryonic institutions which were to pave the way for the establishment, at a later period, of its Administrative Order. It was during this period that the number of its adherents rapidly multiplied, that its range, now embracing every province of that kingdom, steadily widened, and the rudimentary forms of its future Assemblies were inaugurated. It was during this period, at a time when state schools and colleges were practically non-existent in that country, and when the education given in existing religious institutions was lamentably defective, that its earliest schools were established, beginning with the Tarbiyat, schools in Tihran for both boys and girls, and followed by the Ta'yid and Mawhibat schools in Hamadan, the Vahdat-i-Bashar school in Kashan and other similar educational institutions in Barfurush and Qazvin. It was during these years that concrete and effectual assistance, both spiritual and material, in the form of visiting teachers from both Europe and America, of nurses, instructors, and physicians, was first extended to the Bahá'í community in that land, these workers constituting the vanguard of that host of helpers which Abdu'l-Bahá promised would arise in time to further the interests of the Faith as well as those of the country in which it was born. It was in the course of these years that the term Babi, as an appellation, designating the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in that country, was universallyPage 300
discarded by the masses in favor of the word Baha'i, the former henceforth being exclusively applied to the fast dwindling number of the followers of Mirza Yahya. During this period, moreover, the first systematic attempts were made to organize and stimulate the teaching work undertaken by the Persian believers, attempts which, apart from reinforcing the foundations of the community, were instrumental in attracting to its cause several outstanding figures in the public life of that country, not excluding certain prominent members of the Shi'ah sacerdotal order, and even descendants of some of the worst persecutors of the Faith. It was during the years of that ministry that the House of the Báb in Shiraz, ordained by Bahá'u'lláh as a center of pilgrimage for His followers, and now so recognized, was by order of Abdu'l-Bahá and through His assistance, restored, and that it became increasingly a focus of Bahá'í life and activity for those who were deprived by circumstances of visiting either the Most Great House in Baghdad or the Most Holy Tomb in Akka.
More conspicuous than any of these undertakings, however, was the erection of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world in the city of Ishqabad, a center founded in the days of Bahá'u'lláh, where the initial steps preparatory to its construction, had been already undertaken during His lifetime. Initiated at about the close of the first decade of Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry (1902); fostered by Him at every stage in its development; personally supervised by the venerable Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, the Vakilu'd-Dawlih, a cousin of the Báb, who dedicated his entire resources to its establishment, and whose dust now reposes at the foot of Mt. Carmel under the shadow of the Tomb of his beloved Kinsman; carried out according to the directions laid down by the Center of the Covenant Himself; a lasting witness to the fervor and the self-sacrifice of the Oriental believers who were resolved to execute the bidding of Bahá'u'lláh as revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, this enterprise must rank not only as the first major undertaking launched through the concerted efforts of His followers in the Heroic Age of His Faith, but as one of the most brilliant and enduring achievements in the history of the first Bahá'í century.
The edifice itself, the foundation stone of which was laid in the presence of General Krupatkin, the governor-general of Turkistan, who had been delegated by the Czar to represent him at the ceremony, has thus been minutely described by a Bahá'í visitor from the West: "The Mashriqu'l-Adhkar stands in the heart of the city; its high dome standing out above the trees and house tops being visible forPage 301
miles to the travelers as they approach the town. It is in the center of a garden bounded by four streets. In the four corners of this enclosure are four buildings: one is the Bahá'í school; one is the traveler's house, where pilgrims and wayfarers are lodged; one is for the keepers, while the fourth one is to be used as a hospital. Nine radial avenues approach the Temple from the several parts of the grounds, one of which, the principal approach to the building, leads from the main gateway of the grounds to the principal portal of the Temple." "In plan," he further adds, "the building is composed of three sections; namely, the central rotunda, the aisle or ambulatory which surrounds it, and the loggia which surrounds the entire building. It is built on the plan of a regular polygon of nine sides. One side is occupied by the monumental main entrance, flanked by minarets -- a high arched portico extending two stories in height recalling in arrangement the architecture of the world famous Taj Mahal at Agra in India, the delight of the world to travelers, many of whom pronounce it to be the most beautiful temple in the world. Thus the principal doorway opens toward the direction of the Holy land. The entire building is surrounded by two series of loggias -- one upper and one lower -- which opens out upon the garden giving a very beautiful architectural effect in harmony with the luxuriant semi-tropical vegetation which fills the garden... The interior walls of the rotunda are treated in five distinct stories. First, a series of nine arches and piers which separate the rotunda from the ambulatory. Second, a similar treatment with balustrades which separate the triforium gallery (which is above the ambulatory and is reached by two staircases in the loggias placed one on either side of the main entrance) from the well of the rotunda. Third, a series of nine blank arches filled with fretwork, between which are escutcheons bearing the Greatest Name. Fourth, a series of nine large arched windows. Fifth, a series of eighteen bull's eye windows. Above and resting on a cornice surmounting this last story rises the inner hemispherical shell of the dome. The interior is elaborately decorated in plaster relief work... The whole structure impresses one by its mass and strength."
Nor should mention be omitted of the two schools for boys and girls which were established in that city, of the pilgrim house instituted in the close vicinity of the Temple, of the Spiritual Assembly and its auxiliary bodies formed to administer the affairs of a growing community, and of the new centers of activity inaugurated in various towns and cities in the province of Turkistan -- all testifying to thePage 302
vitality which the Faith had displayed ever since its inception in that land.
A parallel if less spectacular development could be observed in the Caucasus. After the establishment of the first center and the formation of an Assembly in Baku, a city which Bahá'í pilgrims, traveling in increasing numbers from Persia to the Holy Land via Turkey, invariably visited, new groups began to be organized, and, evolving later into well-established communities, cooperated in increasing measure with their brethren both in Turkistan and Persia.
In Egypt a steady increase in the number of the adherents of the Faith was accompanied by a general expansion in its activities. The establishments of new centers; the consolidation of the chief center established in Cairo; the conversion, largely through the indefatigable efforts of the learned Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, of several prominent students and teachers of the Azhar University -- premonitory symptoms foreshadowing the advent of the promised day on which, according to Abdu'l-Bahá, the standard and emblem of the Faith would be implanted in the heart of that time-honored Islamic seat of learning; the translation into Arabic and the dissemination of some of the most important writings of Bahá'u'lláh revealed in Persian, together with other Bahá'í literature; the printing of books, treatises and pamphlets by Bahá'í authors and scholars; the publication of articles in the Press written in defense of the Faith and for the purpose of broadcasting its message; the formation of rudimentary administrative institutions in the capital as well as in nearby centers; the enrichment of the life of the community through the addition of converts of Kurdish, Coptic, and Armenian origin -- these may be regarded as the first fruits garnered in a country which, blessed by the footsteps of Abdu'l-Bahá, was, in later years, to play a historic part in the emancipation of the Faith, and which, by virtue of its unique position as the intellectual center of both the Arab and Islamic worlds, must inevitably assume a notable and decisive share of responsibility in the final establishment of that Faith throughout the East.
Even more remarkable was the expansion of Bahá'í activity in India and Burma, where a steadily growing community, now including among its members representatives of the Zoroastrian, the Islamic, the Hindu and the Buddhist Faiths, as well as members of the Sikh community, succeeded in establishing its outposts, as far as Mandalay and the village of Daidanaw Kalazoo, in the Hanthawaddy district of Burma, at which latter place no less than eight hundred Bahá'ís resided, possessing a school, a court, and a hospital of their own, asPage 303
well as land for community cultivation, the proceeds of which they devoted to the furtherance of the interests of their Faith.
In Iraq, where the House occupied by Bahá'u'lláh was entirely restored and renovated, and where a small yet intrepid community struggled in the face of constant opposition to regulate and administer its affairs; in Constantinople, where a Bahá'í center was established; in Tunis where the foundations of a local community were firmly laid; in Japan, in China, and in Honolulu to which Bahá'í teachers traveled, and where they settled and taught -- in all of these places the manifold evidences of the guiding hand of Abdu'l-Bahá and the tangible effects of His sleepless vigilance and unfailing care could be clearly perceived.
Nor did the nascent communities established in France, England, Germany and the United States cease to receive, after His memorable visits to those countries, further tokens of His special interest in, and solicitude for, their welfare and spiritual advancement. It was in consequence of His directions and the unceasing flow of His Tablets, addressed to the members of these communities, as well as His constant encouragement of the efforts they were exerting, that Bahá'í centers steadily multiplied, that public meetings were organized, that new periodicals were published, that translations of some of the best known works of Bahá'u'lláh and of the Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá were printed and circulated in the English, the French, and German languages, and that the initial attempts to organize the affairs, and consolidate the foundations, of these newly established communities were undertaken.
In the North American continent, more particularly, the members of a flourishing community, inspired by the blessings bestowed by Abdu'l-Bahá, as well as by His example and the acts He performed in the course of His prolonged visit to their country, gave an earnest of the magnificent enterprise they were to carry through in later years. They purchased the twelve remaining lots forming part of the site of their projected Temple, selected, during the sessions of their 1920 Convention, the design of the French Canadian Bahá'í architect, Louis Bourgeois, placed the contract for the excavation and the laying of its foundations, and succeeded soon after in completing the necessary arrangements for the construction of its basement: measures which heralded the stupendous efforts which, after Abdu'l-Bahá'í ascension, culminated in the erection of its superstructure and the completion of its exterior ornamentation.
The war of 1914-18, repeatedly foreshadowed by Abdu'l-Bahá inPage 304
the dark warnings He uttered in the course of His western travels, and which broke out eight months after His return to the Holy Land, once more cast a shadow of danger over His life, the last that was to darken the years of His agitated yet glorious ministry.
The late entry of the United States of America in that world-convulsing conflict, the neutrality of Persia, the remoteness of India and of the Far East from the theater of operations, insured the protection of the overwhelming majority of His followers, who, though for the most part entirely cut off for a number of years from the spiritual center of their Faith, were still able to conduct their affairs and safeguard the fruits of their recent achievements in comparative safety and freedom.
In the Holy Land, however, though the outcome of that tremendous struggle was to liberate once and for all the Heart and Center of the Faith from the Turkish yoke, a yoke which had imposed for so long upon its Founder and His Successor such oppressive and humiliating restrictions, yet severe privations and grave dangers continued to surround its inhabitants during the major part of that conflict, and renewed, for a time, the perils which had confronted Abdu'l-Bahá during the years of His incarceration in Akka. The privations inflicted on the inhabitants by the gross incompetence, the shameful neglect, the cruelty and callous indifference of both the civil and military authorities, though greatly alleviated through the bountiful generosity, the foresight and the tender care of Abdu'l-Bahá, were aggravated by the rigors of a strict blockade. A bombardment of Haifa by the Allies was a constant threat, at one time so real that it necessitated the temporary removal of Abdu'l-Bahá, His family and members of the local community to the village of Abu-Sinan at the foot of the hills east of Akka. The Turkish Commander-in-Chief, the brutal, the all-powerful and unscrupulous Jamal Pasha, an inveterate enemy of the Faith, through his own ill-founded suspicions and the instigation of its enemies, had already grievously afflicted Abdu'l-Bahá, and even expressed his intention of crucifying Him and of razing to the ground the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh. Abdu'l-Bahá Himself still suffered from the ill-health and exhaustion brought on by the fatigues of His three-year journeys. He felt acutely the virtual stoppage of all communication with most of the Bahá'í centers throughout the world. Agony filled His soul at the spectacle of human slaughter precipitated through humanity's failure to respond to the summons He had issued, or to heed the warnings He had given. Surely sorrow upon sorrow was added to the burden of trials andPage 305
vicissitudes which He, since His boyhood, had borne so heroically for the sake, and in the service, of His Father's Cause.
And yet during these somber days, the darkness of which was reminiscent of the tribulations endured during the most dangerous period of His incarceration in the prison-fortress of Akka, Abdu'l-Bahá, whilst in the precincts of His Father's Shrine, or when dwelling in the House He occupied in Akka, or under the shadow of the Báb's sepulcher on Mt. Carmel, was moved to confer once again, and for the last time in His life, on the community of His American followers a signal mark of His special favor by investing them, on the eve of the termination of His earthly ministry, through the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, with a world mission, whose full implications even now, after the lapse of a quarter of a century, still remain undisclosed, and whose unfoldment thus far, though as yet in its initial stages, has so greatly enriched the spiritual as well as the administrative annals of the first Bahá'í century.
The conclusion of this terrible conflict, the first stage in a titanic convulsion long predicted by Bahá'u'lláh, not only marked the extinction of Turkish rule in the Holy Land and sealed the doom of that military despot who had vowed to destroy Abdu'l-Bahá, but also shattered once and for all the last hopes still entertained by the remnant of Covenant-breakers who, untaught by the severe retribution that had already overtaken them, still aspired to witness the extinction of the light of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant. Furthermore, it produced those revolutionary changes which, on the one hand, fulfilled the ominous predictions made by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and enabled, according to Scriptural prophecy, so large an element of the "outcasts of Israel," the "remnant" of the "flock," to "assemble" in the Holy Land, and to be brought back to "their folds" and "their own border," beneath the shadow of the "Incomparable Branch," referred to by Abdu'l-Bahá in His "Some Answered Questions," and which, on the other hand, gave birth to the institution of the League of Nations, the precursor of that World Tribunal which, as prophesied by that same "Incomparable Branch," the peoples and nations of the earth must needs unitedly establish.
No need to dwell on the energetic steps which the English believers as soon as they had been apprized of the dire peril threatening the life of Abdu'l-Bahá undertook to insure His security; on the measures independently taken whereby Lord Curzon and others in the British Cabinet were advised as to the critical situation at Haifa;Page 306
on the prompt intervention of Lord Lamington, who immediately wrote to the Foreign Office to "explain the importance of Abdu'l-Bahá'í position;" on the despatch which the Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, on the day of the receipt of this letter, sent to General Allenby, instructing him to "extend every protection and consideration to Abdu'l-Bahá, His family and His friends;" on the cablegram subsequently sent by the General, after the capture of Haifa, to London, requesting the authorities to "notify the world that Abdu'l-Bahá is safe;" on the orders which that same General issued to the General Commanding Officer in command of the Haifa operations to insure Abdu'l-Bahá'í safety, thus frustrating the express intention of the Turkish Commander-in-Chief (according to information which had reached the British Intelligence Service) to "crucify Abdu'l-Bahá and His family on Mt. Carmel" in the event of the Turkish army being compelled to evacuate Haifa and retreat northwards.
The three years which elapsed between the liberation of Palestine by the British forces and the passing of Abdu'l-Bahá were marked by a further enhancement of the prestige which the Faith, despite the persecutions to which it had been subjected, had acquired at its world center, and by a still greater extension in the range of its teaching activities in various parts of the world. The danger which, for no less than three score years and five, had threatened the lives of the Founders of the Faith and of the Center of His Covenant, was now at long last through the instrumentality of that war completely and definitely lifted. The Head of the Faith, and its twin holy Shrines, in the plain of Akka and on the slopes of Mt. Carmel, were henceforth to enjoy for the first time, through the substitution of a new and liberal regime for the corrupt administration of the past, a freedom from restrictions which was later expanded into a clearer recognition of the institutions of the Cause. Nor were the British authorities slow to express their appreciation of the role which Abdu'l-Bahá had played in allaying the burden of suffering that had oppressed the inhabitants of the Holy Land during the dark days of that distressing conflict. The conferment of a knighthood upon Him at a ceremony specially held for His sake in Haifa, at the residence of the British Governor, at which notables of various communities had assembled; the visit paid Him by General and Lady Allenby, who were His guests at luncheon in Bahji, and whom He conducted to the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh; the interview at His Haifa residence between Him and King Feisal who shortly after became the ruler of Iraq; the several calls paid Him by Sir Herbert Samuel (laterPage 307
Viscount Samuel of Carmel) both before and after his appointment as High Commissioner for Palestine; His meeting with Lord Lamington who, likewise, called upon Him in Haifa, as well as with the then Governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs; the multiplying evidences of the recognition of His high and unique position by all religious communities, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish; the influx of pilgrims who, from East and West, flocked to the Holy Land in comparative ease and safety to visit the Holy Tombs in Akka and Haifa, to pay their share of homage to Him, to celebrate the signal protection vouchsafed by Providence to the Faith and its followers, and to give thanks for the final emancipation of its Head and world Center from Turkish yoke -- these contributed, each in its own way, to heighten the prestige which the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh had been steadily and gradually acquiring through the inspired leadership of Abdu'l-Bahá.
As the ministry of Abdu'l-Bahá drew to a close signs multiplied of the resistless and manifold unfoldment of the Faith both in the East and in the West, both in the shaping and consolidation of its institutions and in the widening range of its activities and its influence. In the city of Ishqabad the construction of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, which He Himself had initiated, was successfully consummated. In Wilmette the excavations for the Mother Temple of the West were carried out and the contract placed for the construction of the basement of the building. In Baghdad the initial steps were taken, according to His special instructions, to reinforce the foundations and restore the Most Great House associated with the memory of His Father. In the Holy Land an extensive property east of the Báb's Sepulcher was purchased through the initiative of the Holy Mother with the support of contributions from Bahá'ís in both the East and the West to serve as a site for the future erection of the first Bahá'í school at the world Administrative Center of the Faith. The site for a Western Pilgrim House was acquired in the neighborhood of Abdu'l-Bahá'í residence, and the building was erected soon after His passing by American believers. The Oriental Pilgrim House, erected on Mt. Carmel by a believer from Ishqabad, soon after the entombment of the Báb's remains, for the convenience of visiting pilgrims, was granted tax exemption by the civil authorities (the first time such a privilege had been conceded since the establishment of the Faith in the Holy Land). The famous scientist and entomologist, Dr. Auguste Forel, was converted to the Faith through the influence of a Tablet sent him by Abdu'l-Bahá -- one of the mostPage 308
weighty the Master ever wrote. Another Tablet of far-reaching importance was His reply to a communication addressed to Him by the Executive Committee of the "Central Organization for a Durable Peace," which He dispatched to them at The Hague by the hands of a special delegation. A new continent was opened to the Cause when, in response to the Tablets of the Divine Plan unveiled at the first Convention after the war, the great-hearted and heroic Hyde Dunn, at the advanced age of sixty-two, promptly forsook his home in California, and, seconded and accompanied by his wife, settled as a pioneer in Australia, where he was able to carry the Message to no less than seven hundred towns throughout that Commonwealth. A new episode began when, in quick response to those same Tablets and their summons, that star-servant of Bahá'u'lláh, the indomitable and immortal Martha Root, designated by her Master "herald of the Kingdom" and "harbinger of the Covenant," embarked on the first of her historic journeys which were to extend over a period of twenty years, and to carry her several times around the globe, and which ended only with her death far from home and in the active service of the Cause she loved so greatly. These events mark the closing stage of a ministry which sealed the triumph of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation, and which will go down in history as one of the most glorious and fruitful periods of the first Bahá'í century.Page 309
Abdu'l-Bahá'í great work was now ended. The historic Mission with which His Father had, twenty-nine years previously, invested Him had been gloriously consummated. A memorable chapter in the history of the first Bahá'í century had been written. The Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation, in which He had participated since its inception, and played so unique a role, had drawn to a close. He had suffered as no disciple of the Faith, who had drained the cup of martyrdom, had suffered, He had labored as none of its greatest heroes had labored. He had witnessed triumphs such as neither the Herald of the Faith nor its Author had ever witnessed.
At the close of His strenuous Western tours, which had called forth the last ounce of His ebbing strength, He had written: "Friends, the time is coming when I shall be no longer with you. I have done all that could be done. I have served the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh to the utmost of My ability. I have labored night and day all the years of My life. O how I long to see the believers shouldering the responsibilities of the Cause!... My days are numbered, and save this there remains none other joy for me." Several years before He had thus alluded to His passing: "O ye My faithful loved ones! Should at any time afflicting events come to pass in the Holy Land, never feel disturbed or agitated. Fear not, neither grieve. For whatsoever thing happeneth will cause the Word of God to be exalted, and His Divine fragrances to be diffused." And again: "Remember, whether or not I be on earth, My presence will be with you always." "Regard not the person of Abdu'l-Bahá," He thus counselled His friends in one of His last Tablets, "for He will eventually take His leave of you all; nay, fix your gaze upon the Word of God... The loved ones of God must arise with such steadfastness that should, in one moment, hundreds of souls even as Abdu'l-Bahá Himself be made a target for the darts of woe, nothing whatsoever shall affect or lessen their ... service to the Cause of God."
In a Tablet addressed to the American believers, a few days before He passed away, He thus vented His pent-up longing to depart from this world: "I have renounced the world and the people thereof... In the cage of this world I flutter even as a frightened bird, andPage 310
yearn every day to take My flight unto Thy Kingdom. Ya Baha'u'l-Abha! Make Me drink of the cup of sacrifice, and set Me free." He revealed a prayer less than six months before His ascension in honor of a kinsman of the Báb, and in it wrote: "'O Lord! My bones are weakened, and the hoar hairs glisten on My head ... and I have now reached old age, failing in My powers.'... No strength is there left in Me wherewith to arise and serve Thy loved ones... O Lord, My Lord! Hasten My ascension unto Thy sublime Threshold ... and My arrival at the Door of Thy grace beneath the shadow of Thy most great mercy..."
Through the dreams He dreamed, through the conversations He held, through the Tablets He revealed, it became increasingly evident that His end was fast approaching. Two months before His passing He told His family of a dream He had had. "I seemed," He said, "to be standing within a great mosque, in the inmost shrine, facing the Qiblih, in the place of the Imam himself. I became aware that a large number of people were flocking into the mosque. More and yet more crowded in, taking their places in rows behind Me, until there was a vast multitude. As I stood I raised loudly the call to prayer. Suddenly the thought came to Me to go forth from the mosque. When I found Myself outside I said within Myself: 'For what reason came I forth, not having led the prayer? But it matters not; now that I have uttered the Call to prayer, the vast multitude will of themselves chant the prayer.'" A few weeks later, whilst occupying a solitary room in the garden of His house, He recounted another dream to those around Him. "I dreamed a dream," He said, "and behold, the Blessed Beauty (Bahá'u'lláh) came and said to Me: 'Destroy this room.'" None of those present comprehended the significance of this dream until He Himself had soon after passed away, when it became clear to them all that by the "room" was meant the temple of His body.
A month before His death (which occurred in the 78th year of His age, in the early hours of the 28th of November, 1921) He had referred expressly to it in some words of cheer and comfort that He addressed to a believer who was mourning the loss of his brother. And about two weeks before His passing He had spoken to His faithful gardener in a manner that clearly indicated He knew His end to be nigh. "I am so fatigued," He observed to him, "the hour is come when I must leave everything and take My flight. I am too weary to walk." He added: "It was during the closing days of the Blessed Beauty, when I was engaged in gathering together His papersPage 311
which were strewn over the sofa in His writing chamber in Bahji, that He turned to Me and said: 'It is of no use to gather them, I must leave them and flee away.' I also have finished My work. I can do nothing more. Therefore must I leave it, and take My departure."
Till the very last day of His earthly life Abdu'l-Bahá continued to shower that same love upon high and low alike, to extend that same assistance to the poor and the down-trodden, and to carry out those same duties in the service of His Father's Faith, as had been His wont from the days of His boyhood. On the Friday before His passing, despite great fatigue, He attended the noonday prayer at the mosque, and distributed afterwards alms, as was His custom, among the poor; dictated some Tablets -- the last ones He revealed -- ; blessed the marriage of a trusted servant, which He had insisted should take place that day; attended the usual meeting of the friends in His home; felt feverish the next day, and being unable to leave the house on the following Sunday, sent all the believers to the Tomb of the Báb to attend a feast which a Parsi pilgrim was offering on the occasion of the anniversary of the Declaration of the Covenant; received with His unfailing courtesy and kindness that same afternoon, and despite growing weariness, the Mufti of Haifa, the Mayor and the Head of the Police; and inquired that night -- the last of His life -- before He retired after the health of every member of His household, of the pilgrims and of the friends in Haifa.
At 1:15 A.M. He arose, and, walking to a table in His room, drank some water, and returned to bed. Later on, He asked one of His two daughters who had remained awake to care for Him, to lift up the net curtains, complaining that He had difficulty in breathing. Some rose-water was brought to Him, of which He drank, after which He again lay down, and when offered food, distinctly remarked: "You wish Me to take some food, and I am going?" A minute later His spirit had winged its flight to its eternal abode, to be gathered, at long last, to the glory of His beloved Father, and taste the joy of everlasting reunion with Him.
The news of His passing, so sudden, so unexpected, spread like wildfire throughout the town, and was flashed instantly over the wires to distant parts of the globe, stunning with grief the community of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in East and West. Messages from far and near, from high and low alike, through cablegrams and letters, poured in conveying to the members of a sorrow-stricken and disconsolate family expressions of praise, of devotion, of anguish and of sympathy.Page 312
The British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Winston Churchill, telegraphed immediately to the High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, instructing him to "convey to the Bahá'í Community, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, their sympathy and condolence." Viscount Allenby, the High Commissioner for Egypt, wired the High Commissioner for Palestine asking him to "convey to the relatives of the late Sir Abdu'l-Bahá Abbas Effendi and to the Bahá'í Community" his "sincere sympathy in the loss of their revered leader." The Council of Ministers in Baghdad instructed the Prime Minister Siyyid Abdu'r-Rahman to extend their "sympathy to the family of His Holiness Abdu'l-Bahá in their bereavement." The Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, General Congreve, addressed to the High Commissioner for Palestine a message requesting him to "convey his deepest sympathy to the family of the late Sir Abbas Baha'i." General Sir Arthur Money, former Chief Administrator of Palestine, wrote expressing his sadness, his profound respect and his admiration for Him as well as his sympathy in the loss which His family had sustained. One of the distinguished figures in the academic life of the University of Oxford, a famous professor and scholar, wrote on behalf of himself and his wife: "The passing beyond the veil into fuller life must be specially wonderful and blessed for One Who has always fixed His thoughts on high, and striven to lead an exalted life here below."
Many and divers newspapers, such as the London "Times," the "Morning Post," the "Daily Mail," the "New York World," "Le Temps," the "Times of India" and others, in different languages and countries, paid their tribute to One Who had rendered the Cause of human brotherhood and peace such signal and imperishable services.
The High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, sent immediately a message conveying his desire to attend the funeral in person, in order as he himself later wrote, to "express my respect for His creed and my regard for His person." As to the funeral itself, which took place on Tuesday morning -- a funeral the like of which Palestine had never seen -- no less than ten thousand people participated representing every class, religion and race in that country. "A great throng," bore witness at a later date, the High Commissioner himself, "had gathered together, sorrowing for His death, but rejoicing also for His life." Sir Ronald Storrs, Governor of Jerusalem at the time, also wrote in describing the funeral: "I have never known a more united expression of regret and respect than was called forth by the utter simplicity of the ceremony."Page 313
The coffin containing the remains of Abdu'l-Bahá was borne to its last resting-place on the shoulders of His loved ones. The cortege which preceded it was led by the City Constabulary Force, acting as a Guard of Honor, behind which followed in order the Boy Scouts of the Muslim and Christian communities holding aloft their banners, a company of Muslim choristers chanting their verses from the Qur'an, the chiefs of the Muslim community headed by the Mufti, and a number of Christian priests, Latin, Greek and Anglican. Behind the coffin walked the members of His family, the British High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, the Governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs, the Governor of Phoenicia, Sir Stewart Symes, officials of the government, consuls of various countries resident in Haifa, notables of Palestine, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Druze, Egyptians, Greeks, Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Europeans and Americans, men, women and children. The long train of mourners, amid the sobs and moans of many a grief-stricken heart, wended its slow way up the slopes of Mt. Carmel to the Mausoleum of the Báb.
Close to the eastern entrance of the Shrine, the sacred casket was placed upon a plain table, and, in the presence of that vast concourse, nine speakers, who represented the Muslim, the Jewish and Christian Faiths, and who included the Mufti of Haifa, delivered their several funeral orations. These concluded, the High Commissioner drew close to the casket, and, with bowed head fronting the Shrine, paid his last homage of farewell to Abdu'l-Bahá: the other officials of the Government followed his example. The coffin was then removed to one of the chambers of the Shrine, and there lowered, sadly and reverently, to its last resting-place in a vault adjoining that in which were laid the remains of the Báb.
During the week following His passing, from fifty to a hundred of the poor of Haifa were daily fed at His house, whilst on the seventh day corn was distributed in His memory to about a thousand of them irrespective of creed or race. On the fortieth day an impressive memorial feast was held in His memory, to which over six hundred of the people of Haifa, Akka and the surrounding parts of Palestine and Syria, including officials and notables of various religions and races, were invited. More than one hundred of the poor were also fed on that day.
One of the assembled guests, the Governor of Phoenicia, paid a last tribute to the memory of Abdu'l-Bahá in the following words: "Most of us here have, I think, a clear picture of Sir Abdu'l-Bahá Abbas, of His dignified figure walking thoughtfully in our streets,Page 314
of His courteous and gracious manner, of His kindness, of His love for little children and flowers, of His generosity and care for the poor and suffering. So gentle was He, and so simple, that in His presence one almost forgot that He was also a great teacher, and that His writings and His conversations have been a solace and an inspiration to hundreds and thousands of people in the East and in the West."
Thus was brought to a close the ministry of One Who was the incarnation, by virtue of the rank bestowed upon Him by His Father, of an institution that has no parallel in the entire field of religious history, a ministry that marks the final stage in the Apostolic, the Heroic and most glorious Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh.
Through Him the Covenant, that "excellent and priceless Heritage" bequeathed by the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation, had been proclaimed, championed and vindicated. Through the power which that Divine Instrument had conferred upon Him the light of God's infant Faith had penetrated the West, had diffused itself as far as the Islands of the Pacific, and illumined the fringes of the Australian continent. Through His personal intervention the Message, Whose Bearer had tasted the bitterness of a life-long captivity, had been noised abroad, and its character and purpose disclosed, for the first time in its history, before enthusiastic and representative audiences in the chief cities of Europe and of the North American continent. Through His unrelaxing vigilance the holy remains of the Báb, brought forth at long last from their fifty-year concealment, had been safely transported to the Holy Land and permanently and befittingly enshrined in the very spot which Bahá'u'lláh Himself had designated for them and had blessed with His presence. Through His bold initiative the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world had been reared in Central Asia, in Russian Turkistan, whilst through His unfailing encouragement a similar enterprise, of still vaster proportions, had been undertaken, and its land dedicated by Himself in the heart of the North American continent. Through the sustaining grace overshadowing Him since the inception of His ministry His royal adversary had been humbled to the dust, the arch-breaker of His Father's Covenant had been utterly routed, and the danger which, ever since Bahá'u'lláh had been banished to Turkish soil, had been threatening the heart of the Faith, definitely removed. In pursuance of His instructions, and in conformity with the principles enunciated and the laws ordained by His Father, the rudimentary institutions, heralding the formal inauguration of the Administrative Order to be founded after His passing, had taken shape and been established. Through HisPage 315
unremitting labors, as reflected in the treatises He composed, the thousands of Tablets He revealed, the discourses He delivered, the prayers, poems and commentaries He left to posterity, mostly in Persian, some in Arabic and a few in Turkish, the laws and principles, constituting the warp and woof of His Father's Revelation, had been elucidated, its fundamentals restated and interpreted, its tenets given detailed application and the validity and indispensability of its verities fully and publicly demonstrated. Through the warnings He sounded, an unheeding humanity, steeped in materialism and forgetful of its God, had been apprized of the perils threatening to disrupt its ordered life, and made, in consequence of its persistent perversity, to sustain the initial shocks of that world upheaval which continues, until the present day, to rock the foundations of human society. And lastly, through the mandate He had issued to a valiant community, the concerted achievements of whose members had shed so great a lustre on the annals of His own ministry, He had set in motion a Plan which, soon after its formal inauguration, achieved the opening of the Australian continent, which, in a later period, was to be instrumental in winning over the heart of a royal convert to His Father's Cause, and which, today, through the irresistible unfoldment of its potentialities, is so marvellously quickening the spiritual life of all the Republics of Latin America as to constitute a befitting conclusion to the records of an entire century.
Nor should a survey of the outstanding features of so blessed and fruitful a ministry omit mention of the prophecies which the unerring pen of the appointed Center of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant has recorded. These foreshadow the fierceness of the onslaught that the resistless march of the Faith must provoke in the West, in India and in the Far East when it meets the time-honored sacerdotal orders of the Christian, the Buddhist and Hindu religions. They foreshadow the turmoil which its emancipation from the fetters of religious orthodoxy will cast in the American, the European, the Asiatic and African continents. They foreshadow the gathering of the children of Israel in their ancient homeland; the erection of the banner of Bahá'u'lláh in the Egyptian citadel of Sunni Islam; the extinction of the powerful influence wielded by the Shi'ah ecclesiastics in Persia; the load of misery which must needs oppress the pitiful remnants of the breakers of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant at the world center of His Faith; the splendor of the institutions which that triumphant Faith must erect on the slopes of a mountain, destined to be so linked with the city of Akka that a single grand metropolis will be formed to enshrine the spiritualPage 316
as well as the administrative seats of the future Bahá'í Commonwealth; the conspicuous honor which the inhabitants of Bahá'u'lláh's native land in general, and its government in particular, must enjoy in a distant future; the unique and enviable position which the community of the Most Great Name in the North American continent must occupy, as a direct consequence of the execution of the world mission which He entrusted to them: finally they foreshadow, as the sum and summit of all, the "hoisting of the standard of God among all nations" and the unification of the entire human race, when "all men will adhere to one religion ... will be blended into one race, and become a single people."
Nor can the revolutionary changes in the great world which that ministry has witnessed be allowed to pass unnoticed -- most of them flowing directly from the warnings which were uttered by the Báb, in the first chapter of His Qayyumu'l-Asma', on the very night of the Declaration of His Mission in Shiraz, and which were later reinforced by the pregnant passages addressed by Bahá'u'lláh to the kings of the earth and the world's religious leaders, in both the Suriy-i-Muluk and the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The conversion of the Portuguese monarchy and the Chinese empire into republics; the collapse of the Russian, the German and Austrian empires, and the ignominious fate which befell their rulers; the assassination of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, the fall of Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid -- these may be said to have marked further stages in the operation of that catastrophic process the inception of which was signalized in the lifetime of Bahá'u'lláh by the murder of Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz, by the dramatic downfall of Napoleon III, and the extinction of the Third Empire, and by the self-imposed imprisonment and virtual termination of the temporal sovereignty of the Pope himself. Later, after Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing, the same process was to be accelerated by the demise of the Qajar dynasty in Persia, by the overthrow of the Spanish monarchy, by the collapse of both the Sultanate and the Caliphate in Turkey, by a swift decline in the fortunes of Shi'ah Islam and of the Christian Missions in the East, and by the cruel fate that is now overtaking so many of the crowned heads of Europe.
Nor can this subject be dismissed without special reference to the names of those men of eminence and learning who were moved, at various stages of Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry, to pay tribute not only to Abdu'l-Bahá Himself but also to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Such names as Count Leo Tolstoy, Prof. Arminius Vambery, Prof. Auguste Forel, Dr. David Starr Jordan, the Venerable Archdeacon Wilberforce, Prof.Page 317
Jowett of Balliol, Dr. T. K. Cheyne, Dr. Estlin Carpenter of Oxford University, Viscount Samuel of Carmel, Lord Lamington, Sir Valentine Chirol, Rabbi Stephen Wise, Prince Muhammad-'Ali of Egypt, Shaykh Muhammad Abdu, Midhat Pasha, and Khurshid Pasha attest, by virtue of the tributes associated with them, the great progress made by the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh under the brilliant leadership of His exalted Son -- tributes whose impressiveness was, in later years, to be heightened by the historic, the repeated and written testimonies which a famous Queen, a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, was impelled to bequeath to posterity as a witness of her recognition of the prophetic mission of Bahá'u'lláh.
As for those enemies who have sedulously sought to extinguish the light of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, the condign punishment they have been made to suffer is no less conspicuous than the doom which overtook those who, in an earlier period, had so basely endeavored to crush the hopes of a rising Faith and destroy its foundations.
To the assassination of the tyrannical Nasiri'd-Din Shah and the subsequent extinction of the Qajar dynasty reference has already been made. Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid, after his deposition, was made a prisoner of state and condemned to a life of complete obscurity and humiliation, scorned by his fellow-rulers and vilified by his subjects. The bloodthirsty Jamal Pasha, who had resolved to crucify Abdu'l-Bahá and raze to the ground Bahá'u'lláh's holy Tomb, had to flee for his life and was slain, while a refugee in the Caucasus, by the hand of an Armenian whose fellow-compatriots he had so pitilessly persecuted. The scheming Jamalu'd-Din Afghani, whose relentless hostility and powerful influence had been so gravely detrimental to the progress of the Faith in Near Eastern countries, was, after a checkered career filled with vicissitudes, stricken with cancer, and having had a major part of his tongue cut away in an unsuccessful operation perished in misery. The four members of the ill-fated Commission of Inquiry, despatched from Constantinople to seal the fate of Abdu'l-Bahá, suffered, each in his turn, a humiliation hardly less drastic than that which they had planned for Him. Arif Bey, the head of the Commission, seeking stealthily at midnight to flee from the wrath of the Young Turks, was shot dead by a sentry. Adham Bey succeeded in escaping to Egypt, but was robbed of his possessions by his servant on the way, and was in the end compelled to seek financial assistance from the Bahá'ís of Cairo, a request which was not refused. Later he sought help from Abdu'l-Bahá, Who immediately directed the believers to present him with a sum on His behalf, an instructionPage 318
which they were unable to carry out owing to his sudden disappearance. Of the other two members, one was exiled to a remote place, and the other died soon after in abject poverty. The notorious Yahya Bey, the Chief of the Police in Akka, a willing and powerful tool in the hand of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the arch-breaker of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, witnessed the frustration of all the hopes he had cherished, lost his position, and had eventually to beg for pecuniary assistance from Abdu'l-Bahá. In Constantinople, in the year which witnessed the downfall of Abdu'l-Hamid, no less than thirty-one dignitaries of the state, including ministers and other high officers of the government, among whom numbered redoubtable enemies of the Faith, were, in a single day, arrested and condemned to the gallows, a spectacular retribution for the part they had played in upholding a tyrannical regime and in endeavoring to extirpate the Faith and its institutions.
In Persia, apart from the sovereign who had, in the full tide of his hopes and the plenitude of his power, been removed from the scene in so startling a manner, a number of princes, ministers and mujtahids, who had actively participated in the suppression of a persecuted community, including Kamran Mirza, the Na'ibu's-Saltanih, the Jalalu'd-Dawlih and Mirza Ali-Asghar Khan, the Atabik-i-A'zam, and Shaykh Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Najafi, the "Son of the Wolf," lost, one by one, their prestige and authority, sank into obscurity, abandoned all hope of achieving their malevolent purpose, and lived, some of them, long enough to behold the initial evidences of the ascendancy of a Cause they had so greatly feared and so vehemently hated.
When we note that in the Holy Land, in Persia, and in the United States of America certain exponents of Christian ecclesiasticism such as Vatralsky, Wilson, Richardson or Easton, observing, and in some cases fearing, the vigorous advances made by the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in Christian lands, arose to stem its progress; and when we watch the recent and steady deterioration of their influence, the decline of their power, the confusion in their ranks and the dissolution of some of their old standing missions and institutions, in Europe, in the Middle East and in Eastern Asia -- may we not attribute this weakening to the opposition which members of various Christian sacerdotal orders began, in the course of Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry, to evince towards the followers and institutions of a Faith which claims to be no less than the fulfilment of the Promise given by Jesus Christ, and the establisher of the Kingdom He Himself had prayed for and foretold?Page 319
And finally, he who, from the moment the Divine Covenant was born until the end of his life, showed a hatred more unrelenting than that which animated the afore-mentioned adversaries of Abdu'l-Bahá, who plotted more energetically than any one of them against Him, and afflicted his Father's Faith with a shame more grievous than any which its external enemies had inflicted upon it -- such a man, together with the infamous crew of Covenant-breakers whom he had misled and instigated, was condemned to witness, in a growing measure, as had been the case with Mirza Yahya and his henchmen, the frustration of his evil designs, the evaporation of all his hopes, the exposition of his true motives and the complete extinction of his erstwhile honor and glory. His brother, Mirza Diya'u'llah, died prematurely; Mirza Aqa Jan, his dupe, followed that same brother, three years later, to the grave; and Mirza Badi'u'llah, his chief accomplice, betrayed his cause, published a signed denunciation of his evil acts, but rejoined him again, only to be alienated from him in consequence of the scandalous behavior of his own daughter. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's half-sister, Furughiyyih, died of cancer, whilst her husband, Siyyid Ali, passed away from a heart attack before his sons could reach him, the eldest being subsequently stricken in the prime of life, by the same malady. Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvini, a notorious Covenant-breaker, perished miserably. Shu'a'u'llah who, as witnessed by Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will, had counted on the murder of the Center of the Covenant, and who had been despatched to the United States by his father to join forces with Ibrahim Khayru'llah, returned crestfallen and empty-handed from his inglorious mission. Jamal-i-Burujirdi, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's ablest lieutenant in Persia, fell a prey to a fatal and loathsome disease; Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Dahaji, who, betraying Abdu'l-Bahá, joined the Covenant-breakers, died in obscurity and poverty, followed by his wife and his two sons; Mirza Husayn-'Aliy-i-Jahrumi, Mirza Husayn-i-Shiraziy-i-Khurtumi and Haji Muhammad-Husayn-i-Kashani, who represented the arch-breaker of the Covenant in Persia, India and Egypt, failed utterly in their missions; whilst the greedy and conceited Ibrahim-i-Khayru'llah, who had chosen to uphold the banner of his rebellion in America for no less than twenty years, and who had the temerity to denounce, in writing, Abdu'l-Bahá, His "false teachings, His misrepresentations of Bahaism, His dissimulation," and to stigmatize His visit to America as "a death-blow" to the "Cause of God," met his death soon after he had uttered these denunciations, utterly abandoned and despised by the entire body of the members of a community, whose founders he himselfPage 320
had converted to the Faith, and in the very land that bore witness to the multiplying evidences of the established ascendancy of Abdu'l-Bahá, Whose authority he had, in his later years, vowed to uproot.
As to those who had openly espoused the cause of this arch-breaker of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, or who had secretly sympathized with him, whilst outwardly supporting Abdu'l-Bahá, some eventually repented and were forgiven; others became disillusioned and lost their faith entirely; a few apostatized, whilst the rest dwindled away, leaving him in the end, except for a handful of his relatives, alone and unsupported. Surviving Abdu'l-Bahá by almost twenty years, he who had so audaciously affirmed to His face that he had no assurance he might outlive Him, lived long enough to witness the utter bankruptcy of his cause, leading meanwhile a wretched existence within the walls of a Mansion that had once housed a crowd of his supporters; was denied by the civil authorities, as a result of the crisis he had after Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing foolishly precipitated, the official custody of his Father's Tomb; was compelled, a few years later, to vacate that same Mansion, which, through his flagrant neglect, had fallen into a dilapidated condition; was stricken with paralysis which crippled half his body; lay bedridden in pain for months before he died; and was buried according to Muslim rites, in the immediate vicinity of a local Muslim shrine, his grave remaining until the present day devoid of even a tombstone -- a pitiful reminder of the hollowness of the claims he had advanced, of the depths of infamy to which he had sunk, and of the severity of the retribution his acts had so richly merited.Page 321
With the passing of Abdu'l-Bahá the first century of the Bahá'í era, whose inception had synchronized with His birth, had run more than three quarters of its course. Seventy-seven years previously the light of the Faith proclaimed by the Báb had risen above the horizon of Shiraz and flashed across the firmament of Persia, dispelling the age-long gloom which had enveloped its people. A blood bath of unusual ferocity, in which government, clergy and people, heedless of the significance of that light and blind to its splendor, had jointly participated, had all but extinguished the radiance of its glory in the land of its birth. Bahá'u'lláh had at the darkest hour in the fortunes of that Faith been summoned, while Himself a prisoner in Tihran, to reinvigorate its life, and been commissioned to fulfil its ultimate purpose. In Baghdad, upon the termination of the ten-year delay interposed between the first intimation of that Mission and its Declaration, He had revealed the Mystery enshrined in the Báb's embryonic Faith, and disclosed the fruit which it had yielded. In Adrianople Bahá'u'lláh's Message, the promise of the Bábi as well as of all previous Dispensations, had been proclaimed to mankind, and its challenge voiced to the rulers of the earth in both the East and the West. Behind the walls of the prison-fortress of Akka the Bearer of God's newborn Revelation had ordained the laws and formulated the principles that were to constitute the warp and woof of His World Order. He had, moreover, prior to His ascension, instituted the Covenant that was to guide and assist in the laying of its foundations and to safeguard the unity of its builders. Armed with that peerless and potent Instrument, Abdu'l-Bahá, His eldest Son and Center of His Covenant, had erected the standard of His Father's Faith in the North American continent, and established an impregnable basis for its institutions in Western Europe, in the Far East and in Australia. He had, in His works, Tablets and addresses, elucidated its principles, interpreted its laws, amplified its doctrine, and erected the rudimentary institutions of its future Administrative Order. In Russia He had raised its first House of Worship, whilst on the slopes of Mt. Carmel He had reared a befitting mausoleumPage 324
for its Herald, and deposited His remains therein with His Own hands. Through His visits to several cities in Europe and the North American continent He had broadcast Bahá'u'lláh's Message to the peoples of the West, and heightened the prestige of the Cause of God to a degree it had never previously experienced. And lastly, in the evening of His life, He had through the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan issued His mandate to the community which He Himself had raised up, trained and nurtured, a Plan that must in the years to come enable its members to diffuse the light, and erect the administrative fabric, of the Faith throughout the five continents of the globe.
The moment had now arrived for that undying, that world-vitalizing Spirit that was born in Shiraz, that had been rekindled in Tihran, that had been fanned into flame in Baghdad and Adrianople, that had been carried to the West, and was now illuminating the fringes of five continents, to incarnate itself in institutions designed to canalize its outspreading energies and stimulate its growth. The Age that had witnessed the birth and rise of the Faith had now closed. The Heroic, the Apostolic Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh, that primitive period in which its Founders had lived, in which its life had been generated, in which its greatest heroes had struggled and quaffed the cup of martyrdom, and its pristine foundations been established -- a period whose splendors no victories in this or any future age, however brilliant, can rival -- had now terminated with the passing of One Whose mission may be regarded as the link binding the Age in which the seed of the newborn Message had been incubating and those which are destined to witness its efflorescence and ultimate fruition.
The Formative Period, the Iron Age, of that Dispensation was now beginning, the Age in which the institutions, local, national and international, of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh were to take shape, develop and become fully consolidated, in anticipation of the third, the last, the Golden Age destined to witness the emergence of a world-embracing Order enshrining the ultimate fruit of God's latest Revelation to mankind, a fruit whose maturity must signalize the establishment of a world civilization and the formal inauguration of the Kingdom of the Father upon earth as promised by Jesus Christ Himself.
To this World Order the Báb Himself had, whilst a prisoner in the mountain fastnesses of Adhirbayjan, explicitly referred in His Persian Bayan, the Mother-Book of the Bábi Dispensation, had announced its advent, and associated it with the name of Bahá'u'lláh, Whose Mission He Himself had heralded. "Well is it with Him," is His remarkable statement in the sixteenth chapter of the third Vahid, "who fixeth hisPage 325
gaze upon the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord! For He will assuredly be made manifest..." To this same Order Bahá'u'lláh Who, in a later period, revealed the laws and principles that must govern the operation of that Order, had thus referred in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Mother-Book of His Dispensation: "The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this Most Great Order. Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System, the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed." Its features Abdu'l-Bahá, its great Architect, delineated in His Will and Testament, whilst the foundations of its rudimentary institutions are now being laid after Him by His followers in the East and in the West in this, the Formative Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation.
The last twenty-three years of the first Bahá'í century may thus be regarded as the initial stage of the Formative Period of the Faith, an Age of Transition to be identified with the rise and establishment of the Administrative Order, upon which the institutions of the future Bahá'í World Commonwealth must needs be ultimately erected in the Golden Age that must witness the consummation of the Bahá'í Dispensation. The Charter which called into being, outlined the features and set in motion the processes of, this Administrative Order is none other than the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Bahá, His greatest legacy to posterity, the brightest emanation of His mind and the mightiest instrument forged to insure the continuity of the three ages which constitute the component parts of His Father's Dispensation.
The Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh had been instituted solely through the direct operation of His Will and purpose. The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Bahá, on the other hand, may be regarded as the offspring resulting from that mystic intercourse between Him Who had generated the forces of a God-given Faith and the One Who had been made its sole Interpreter and was recognized as its perfect Exemplar. The creative energies unleashed by the Originator of the Law of God in this age gave birth, through their impact upon the mind of Him Who had been chosen as its unerring Expounder, to that Instrument, the vast implications of which the present generation, even after the lapse of twenty-three years, is still incapable of fully apprehending. This Instrument can, if we would correctly appraise it, no more be divorced from the One Who provided the motivating impulse for its creation than from Him Who directly conceived it. The purpose of the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation had, as already observed, been so thoroughly infused into the mind of Abdu'l-Bahá, and His Spirit hadPage 326
so profoundly impregnated His being, and their aims and motives been so completely blended, that to dissociate the doctrine laid down by the former from the supreme act associated with the mission of the latter would be tantamount to a repudiation of one of the most fundamental verities of the Faith.
The Administrative Order which this historic Document has established, it should be noted, is, by virtue of its origin and character, unique in the annals of the world's religious systems. No Prophet before Bahá'u'lláh, it can be confidently asserted, not even Muhammad Whose Book clearly lays down the laws and ordinances of the Islamic Dispensation, has established, authoritatively and in writing, anything comparable to the Administrative Order which the authorized Interpreter of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings has instituted, an Order which, by virtue of the administrative principles which its Author has formulated, the institutions He has established, and the right of interpretation with which He has invested its Guardian, must and will, in a manner unparalleled in any previous religion, safeguard from schism the Faith from which it has sprung. Nor is the principle governing its operation similar to that which underlies any system, whether theocratic or otherwise, which the minds of men have devised for the government of human institutions. Neither in theory nor in practice can the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh be said to conform to any type of democratic government, to any system of autocracy, to any purely aristocratic order, or to any of the various theocracies, whether Jewish, Christian or Islamic which mankind has witnessed in the past. It incorporates within its structure certain elements which are to be found in each of the three recognized forms of secular government, is devoid of the defects which each of them inherently possesses, and blends the salutary truths which each undoubtedly contains without vitiating in any way the integrity of the Divine verities on which it is essentially founded. The hereditary authority which the Guardian of the Administrative Order is called upon to exercise, and the right of the interpretation of the Holy Writ solely conferred upon him; the powers and prerogatives of the Universal House of Justice, possessing the exclusive right to legislate on matters not explicitly revealed in the Most Holy Book; the ordinance exempting its members from any responsibility to those whom they represent, and from the obligation to conform to their views, convictions or sentiments; the specific provisions requiring the free and democratic election by the mass of the faithful of the Body that constitutes the sole legislative organ in the world-wide Bahá'í community -- these are among the features whichPage 327
combine to set apart the Order identified with the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh from any of the existing systems of human government.
Nor have the enemies who, at the hour of the inception of this Administrative Order, and in the course of its twenty-three year existence, both in the East and in the West, from within and from without, misrepresented its character, or derided and vilified it, or striven to arrest its march, or contrived to create a breach in the ranks of its supporters, succeeded in achieving their malevolent purpose. The strenuous exertions of an ambitious Armenian, who, in the course of the first years of its establishment in Egypt, endeavored to supplant it by the "Scientific Society" which in his short-sightedness he had conceived and was sponsoring, failed utterly in its purpose. The agitation provoked by a deluded woman who strove diligently both in the United States and in England to demonstrate the unauthenticity of the Charter responsible for its creation, and even to induce the civil authorities of Palestine to take legal action in the matter -- a request which to her great chagrin was curtly refused -- as well as the defection of one of the earliest pioneers and founders of the Faith in Germany, whom that same woman had so tragically misled, produced no effect whatsoever. The volumes which a shameless apostate composed and disseminated, during that same period in Persia, in his brazen efforts not only to disrupt that Order but to undermine the very Faith which had conceived it, proved similarly abortive. The schemes devised by the remnants of the Covenant-breakers, who immediately the aims and purposes of Abdu'l-Bahá'í Will became known arose, headed by Mirza Badi'u'llah, to wrest the custodianship of the holiest shrine in the Bahá'í world from its appointed Guardian, likewise came to naught and brought further discredit upon them. The subsequent attacks launched by certain exponents of Christian orthodoxy, in both Christian and non-Christian lands, with the object of subverting the foundations, and distorting the features, of this same Order were powerless to sap the loyalty of its upholders or to deflect them from their high purpose. Not even the infamous and insidious machinations of a former secretary of Abdu'l-Bahá, who, untaught by the retribution that befell Bahá'u'lláh's amanuensis, as well as by the fate that overtook several other secretaries and interpreters of His Master, in both the East and the West, has arisen, and is still exerting himself, to pervert the purpose and nullify the essential provisions of the immortal Document from which that Order derives its authority, have been able to stay even momentarily the march of its institutions along the course set for it by its Author, or to create anything that might,Page 328
however remotely, resemble a breach in the ranks of its assured, its wide-awake and stalwart supporters.
The Document establishing that Order, the Charter of a future world civilization, which may be regarded in some of its features as supplementary to no less weighty a Book than the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; signed and sealed by Abdu'l-Bahá; entirely written with His own hand; its first section composed during one of the darkest periods of His incarceration in the prison-fortress of Akka, proclaims, categorically and unequivocally, the fundamental beliefs of the followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh; reveals, in unmistakable language, the twofold character of the Mission of the Báb; discloses the full station of the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation; asserts that "all others are servants unto Him and do His bidding"; stresses the importance of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; establishes the institution of the Guardianship as a hereditary office and outlines its essential functions; provides the measures for the election of the International House of Justice, defines its scope and sets forth its relationship to that Institution; prescribes the obligations, and emphasizes the responsibilities, of the Hands of the Cause of God; and extolls the virtues of the indestructible Covenant established by Bahá'u'lláh. That Document, furthermore, lauds the courage and constancy of the supporters of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant; expatiates on the sufferings endured by its appointed Center; recalls the infamous conduct of Mirza Yahya and his failure to heed the warnings of the Báb; exposes, in a series of indictments, the perfidy and rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, and the complicity of his son Shu'a'u'llah and of his brother Mirza Badi'u'llah; reaffirms their excommunication, and predicts the frustration of all their hopes; summons the Afnan (the Báb's kindred), the Hands of the Cause and the entire company of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh to arise unitedly to propagate His Faith, to disperse far and wide, to labor tirelessly and to follow the heroic example of the Apostles of Jesus Christ; warns them against the dangers of association with the Covenant-breakers, and bids them shield the Cause from the assaults of the insincere and the hypocrite; and counsels them to demonstrate by their conduct the universality of the Faith they have espoused, and vindicate its high principles. In that same Document its Author reveals the significance and purpose of the Huququ'llah (Right of God), already instituted in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; enjoins submission and fidelity towards all monarchs who are just; expresses His longing for martyrdom, and voices His prayers for the repentance as well as the forgiveness of His enemies.Page 329
Obedient to the summons issued by the Author of so momentous a Document; conscious of their high calling; galvanized into action by the shock sustained through the unexpected and sudden removal of Abdu'l-Bahá; guided by the Plan which He, the Architect of the Administrative Order, had entrusted to their hands; undeterred by the attacks directed against it by betrayers and enemies, jealous of its gathering strength and blind to its unique significance, the members of the widely-scattered Bahá'í communities, in both the East and the West, arose with clear vision and inflexible determination to inaugurate the Formative Period of their Faith by laying the foundations of that world-embracing Administrative system designed to evolve into a World Order which posterity must acclaim as the promise and crowning glory of all the Dispensations of the past. Not content with the erection and consolidation of the administrative machinery provided for the preservation of the unity and the efficient conduct of the affairs of a steadily expanding community, the followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh resolved, in the course of the two decades following Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing, to assert and demonstrate by their acts the independent character of that Faith, to enlarge still further its limits and swell the number of its avowed supporters.
In this triple world-wide effort, it should be noted, the role played by the American Bahá'í community, since the passing of Abdu'l-Bahá until the termination of the first Bahá'í century, has been such as to lend a tremendous impetus to the development of the Faith throughout the world, to vindicate the confidence placed in its members by Abdu'l-Bahá Himself, and to justify the high praise He bestowed upon them and the fond hopes He entertained for their future. Indeed so preponderating has been the influence of its members in both the initiation and the consolidation of Bahá'í administrative institutions that their country may well deserve to be recognized as the cradle of the Administrative Order which Bahá'u'lláh Himself had envisaged and which the Will of the Center of His Covenant had called into being.
It should be borne in mind in this connection that the preliminary steps aiming at the disclosure of the scope and working of this Administrative Order, which was now to be formally established after Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing, had already been taken by Him, and even by Bahá'u'lláh in the years preceding His ascension. The appointment by Him of certain outstanding believers in Persia as "Hands of the Cause"; the initiation of local Assemblies and boards of consultation by Abdu'l-Bahá in leading Bahá'í centers in both the East and the West;Page 330
the formation of the Bahá'í Temple Unity in the United States of America; the establishment of local funds for the promotion of Bahá'í activities; the purchase of property dedicated to the Faith and its future institutions; the founding of publishing societies for the dissemination of Bahá'í literature; the erection of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world; the construction of the Báb's mausoleum on Mt. Carmel; the institution of hostels for the accommodation of itinerant teachers and pilgrims -- these may be regarded as the precursors of the institutions which, immediately after the closing of the Heroic Age of the Faith, were to be permanently and systematically established throughout the Bahá'í world.
No sooner had the provisions of that Divine Charter, delineating the features of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh been disclosed to His followers than they set about erecting, upon the foundations which the lives of the heroes, the saints and martyrs of that Faith had laid, the first stage of the framework of its administrative institutions. Conscious of the necessity of constructing, as a first step, a broad and solid base upon which the pillars of that mighty structure could subsequently be raised; fully aware that upon these pillars, when firmly established, the dome, the final unit crowning the entire edifice, must eventually rest; undeflected in their course by the crisis which the Covenant-breakers had precipitated in the Holy Land, or the agitation which the stirrers of mischief had provoked in Egypt, or the disturbances resulting from the seizure by the Shi'ah community of the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, or the growing dangers confronting the Faith in Russia, or the scorn and ridicule which had greeted the initial activities of the American Bahá'í community from certain quarters that had completely misapprehended their purpose, the pioneer builders of a divinely-conceived Order undertook, in complete unison, and despite the great diversity in their outlook, customs and languages, the double task of establishing and of consolidating their local councils, elected by the rank and file of the believers, and designed to direct, coordinate and extend the activities of the followers of a far-flung Faith. In Persia, in the United States of America, in the Dominion of Canada, in the British Isles, in France, in Germany, in Austria, in India, in Burma, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Russian Turkistan, in the Caucasus, in Australia, in New Zealand, in South Africa, in Turkey, in Syria, in Palestine, in Bulgaria, in Mexico, in the Philippine Islands, in Jamaica, in Costa Rica, in Guatemala, in Honduras, in San Salvador, in Argentina, in Uruguay, in Chile, in Brazil, in Ecuador, in Colombia, in Paraguay, in Peru, in Alaska, in Cuba, in Haiti, inPage 331
Japan, in the Hawaiian Islands, in Tunisia, in Puerto Rico, in Baluchistan, in Russia, in Transjordan, in Lebanon, and in Abyssinia such councils, constituting the basis of the rising Order of a long-persecuted Faith, were gradually established. Designated as "Spiritual Assemblies" -- an appellation that must in the course of time be replaced by their permanent and more descriptive title of "Houses of Justice," bestowed upon them by the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation; instituted, without any exception, in every city, town and village where nine or more adult believers are resident; annually and directly elected, on the first day of the greatest Bahá'í Festival by all adult believers, men and women alike; invested with an authority rendering them unanswerable for their acts and decisions to those who elect them; solemnly pledged to follow, under all conditions, the dictates of the "Most Great Justice" that can alone usher in the reign of the "Most Great Peace" which Bahá'u'lláh has proclaimed and must ultimately establish; charged with the responsibility of promoting at all times the best interests of the communities within their jurisdiction, of familiarizing them with their plans and activities and of inviting them to offer any recommendations they might wish to make; cognizant of their no less vital task of demonstrating, through association with all liberal and humanitarian movements, the universality and comprehensiveness of their Faith; dissociated entirely from all sectarian organizations, whether religious or secular; assisted by committees annually appointed by, and directly responsible to, them, to each of which a particular branch of Bahá'í activity is assigned for study and action; supported by local funds to which all believers voluntarily contribute; these Assemblies, the representatives and custodians of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, numbering, at the present time, several hundred, and whose membership is drawn from the diversified races, creeds and classes constituting the world-wide Bahá'í community, have, in the course of the last two decades, abundantly demonstrated, by virtue of their achievements, their right to be regarded as the chief sinews of Bahá'í society, as well as the ultimate foundation of its administrative structure.
"The Lord hath ordained," is Bahá'u'lláh's injunction in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, "that in every city a House of Justice be established, wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Baha (9), and should it exceed this number, it doth not matter. It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men, and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together, and to have regardPage 332
for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly." "These Spiritual Assemblies," is Abdu'l-Bahá'í testimony, in a Tablet addressed to an American believer, "are aided by the Spirit of God. Their defender is Abdu'l-Bahá. Over them He spreadeth His Wings. What bounty is there greater than this?" "These Spiritual Assemblies," He, in that same Tablet has declared, "are shining lamps and heavenly gardens, from which the fragrances of holiness are diffused over all regions, and the lights of knowledge are shed abroad over all created things. From them the spirit of life streameth in every direction. They, indeed, are the potent sources of the progress of man, at all times and under all conditions." Establishing beyond any doubt their God-given authority, He has written: "It is incumbent upon every one not to take any step without consulting the Spiritual Assembly, and all must assuredly obey with heart and soul its bidding, and be submissive unto it, that things may be properly ordered and well arranged." "If after discussion," He, furthermore has written, "a decision be carried unanimously, well and good; but if, the Lord forbid, differences of opinion should arise, a majority of voices must prevail."
Having established the structure of their local Assemblies -- the base of the edifice which the Architect of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh had directed them to erect -- His disciples, in both the East and the West, unhesitatingly embarked on the next and more difficult stage, of their high enterprise. In countries where the local Bahá'í communities had sufficiently advanced in number and in influence measures were taken for the initiation of National Assemblies, the pivots round which all national undertakings must revolve. Designated by Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will as the "Secondary Houses of Justice," they constitute the electoral bodies in the formation of the International House of Justice, and are empowered to direct, unify, coordinate and stimulate the activities of individuals as well as local Assemblies within their jurisdiction. Resting on the broad base of organized local communities, themselves pillars sustaining the institution which must be regarded as the apex of the Bahá'í Administrative Order, these Assemblies are elected, according to the principle of proportional representation, by delegates representative of Bahá'í local communities assembled at Convention during the period of the Ridvan Festival; are possessed of the necessary authority to enable them to insure the harmonious and efficient development of Bahá'í activity within their respective spheres; are freed from all direct responsibility for their policies and decisions to their electorates; are charged with thePage 333
sacred duty of consulting the views, of inviting the recommendations and of securing the confidence and cooperation of the delegates and of acquainting them with their plans, problems and actions; and are supported by the resources of national funds to which all ranks of the faithful are urged to contribute. Instituted in the United States of America (1925) (the National Assembly superseding in that country the institution of Bahá'í Temple Unity formed during Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry), in the British Isles (1923), in Germany (1923), in Egypt (1924), in Iraq (1931), in India (1923), in Persia (1934) and in Australia (1934); their election renewed annually by delegates whose number has been fixed, according to national requirements, at 9, 19, 95, or 171 (9 times 19), these national bodies have through their emergence signalized the birth of a new epoch in the Formative Age of the Faith, and marked a further stage in the evolution, the unification and consolidation of a continually expanding community. Aided by national committees responsible to and chosen by them, without discrimination, from among the entire body of the believers within their jurisdiction, and to each of which a particular sphere of Bahá'í service is allocated, these Bahá'í National Assemblies have, as the scope of their activities steadily enlarged, proved themselves, through the spirit of discipline which they have inculcated and through their uncompromising adherence to principles which have enabled them to rise above all prejudices of race, nation, class and color, capable of administering, in a remarkable fashion, the multiplying activities of a newly-consolidated Faith.
Nor have the national committees themselves been less energetic and devoted in the discharge of their respective functions. In the defense of the Faith's vital interests, in the exposition of its doctrine; in the dissemination of its literature; in the consolidation of its finances; in the organization of its teaching force; in the furtherance of the solidarity of its component parts; in the purchase of its historic sites; in the preservation of its sacred records, treasures and relics; in its contacts with the various institutions of the society of which it forms a part; in the education of its youth; in the training of its children; in the improvement of the status of its women adherents in the East; the members of these diversified agencies, operating under the aegis of the elected national representatives of the Bahá'í community, have amply demonstrated their capacity to promote effectively its vital and manifold interests. The mere enumeration of the national committees which, originating mostly in the West and functioning with exemplary efficiency in the United States and Canada,Page 334
now carry on their activities with a vigor and a unity of purpose which sharply contrast with the effete institutions of a moribund civilization, would suffice to reveal the scope of these auxiliary institutions which an evolving Administrative Order, still in the secondary stage of its development, has set in motion: The Teaching Committee, the Regional Teaching Committees; the Inter-America Committee; the Publishing Committee; the Race Unity Committee; the Youth Committee; the Reviewing Committee; The Temple Maintenance Committee; the Temple Program Committee; the Temple Guides Committee; the Temple Librarian and Sales Committee; the Boys' and Girls' Service Committees; the Child Education Committee; the Women's Progress, Teaching, and Program Committees; the Legal Committee; the Archives and History Committee; the Census Committee; the Bahá'í Exhibits Committee; the Bahá'í News Committee; the Bahá'í News Service Committee; the Braille Transcriptions Committee; the Contacts Committee; the Service Committee; the Editorial Committee; the Index Committee; the Library Committee; the Radio Committee; the Accountant Committee; the Annual Souvenir Committee; the Bahá'í World Editorial Committee; the Study Outline Committee; the International Auxiliary Language Committee; the Institute of Bahá'í Education Committee; the World Order Magazine Committee; the Bahá'í Public Relations Committee; the Bahá'í Schools Committee; the Summer Schools Committee; the International School Committee; the Pamphlet Literature Committee; the Bahá'í Cemetery Committee; the Haziratu'l-Quds Committee; the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar Committee; the Assembly Development Committee; the National History Committee; the Miscellaneous Materials Committee; the Free Literature Committee; the Translation Committee; the Cataloguing Tablets Committee; the Editing Tablets Committee; the Properties Committee; the Adjustments Committee; the Publicity Committee; the East and West Committee; the Welfare Committee; the Transcription of Tablets Committee; the Traveling Teachers Committee; the Bahá'í Education Committee; the Holy Sites Committee; the Children's Savings Bank Committee.
The establishment of local and national Assemblies and the subsequent formation of local and national committees, acting as necessary adjuncts to the elected representatives of Bahá'í communities in both the East and the West, however remarkable in themselves, were but a prelude to a series of undertakings on the part of the newly formed National Assemblies, which have contributed in no small measure to the unification of the Bahá'í world community and the consolidationPage 335
of its Administrative Order. The initial step taken in that direction was the drafting and adoption of a Bahá'í National constitution, first framed and promulgated by the elected representatives of the American Bahá'í Community in 1927, the text of which has since, with slight variations suited to national requirements, been translated into Arabic, German and Persian, and constitutes, at the present time, the charter of the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada, of the British Isles, of Germany, of Persia, of Iraq, of India and Burma, of Egypt and the Sudan and of Australia and New Zealand. Heralding the formulation of the constitution of the future Bahá'í World Community; submitted for the consideration of all local Assemblies and ratified by the entire body of the recognized believers in countries possessing national Assemblies, this national constitution has been supplemented by a similar document, containing the by-laws of Bahá'í local assemblies, first drafted by the New York Bahá'í community in November, 1931, and accepted as a pattern for all local Bahá'í constitutions. The text of this national constitution comprises a Declaration of Trust, whose articles set forth the character and objects of the national Bahá'í community, establish the functions, designate the central office, and describe the official seal, of the body of its elected representatives, as well as a set of by-laws which define the status, the mode of election, the powers and duties of both local and national Assemblies, describe the relation of the National Assembly to the International House of Justice as well as to local Assemblies and individual believers, outline the rights and obligations of the National Convention and its relation to the National Assembly, disclose the character of Bahá'í elections, and lay down the requirements of voting membership in all Bahá'í communities.
The framing of these constitutions, both local and national, identical to all intents and purposes in their provisions, provided the necessary foundation for the legal incorporation of these administrative institutions in accordance with civil statutes controlling religious or commercial bodies. Giving these Assemblies a legal standing, this incorporation greatly consolidated their power and enlarged their capacity, and in this regard the achievement of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada and the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of New York again set an example worthy of emulation by their sister Assemblies in both the East and the West. The incorporation of the American National Spiritual Assembly as a voluntary Trust, a species of corporation recognized under the common law, enabling it to enter into contract, hold property andPage 336
receive bequests by virtue of a certificate issued in May, 1929, under the seal of the Department of State in Washington and bearing the signature of the Secretary of State, Henry L. Stimson, was followed by the adoption of similar legal measures resulting in the successive incorporation of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India and Burma, in January, 1933, in Lahore, in the state of Punjab, according to the provisions of the Societies Registration Act of 1860; of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Egypt and the Sudan, in December, 1934, as certified by the Mixed Court in Cairo; of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Australia and New Zealand, in January, 1938, as witnessed by the Deputy Registrar at the General Registry Office for the state of South Australia; and more recently of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the British Isles, in August, 1939, as an unlimited non-profit company, under the Companies Act, 1929, and certified by the Assistant Registrar of Companies in the City of London.
Parallel with the legal incorporation of these National Assemblies a far larger number of Bahá'í local Assemblies were similarly incorporated, following the example set by the Chicago Bahá'í Assembly in February, 1932, in countries as far apart as the United States of America, India, Mexico, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Burma, Costa Rica, Baluchistan and the Hawaiian Islands. The Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'ís of Esslingen in Germany, of Mexico City in Mexico, of San Jose in Costa Rica, of Sydney and Adelaide in Australia, of Auckland in New Zealand, of Delhi, Bombay, Karachi, Poona, Calcutta, Secunderabad, Bangalore, Vellore, Ahmedabad, Serampore, Andheri and Baroda in India, of Tuetta in Baluchistan, of Rangoon, Mandalay and Daidanow-Kalazoo in Burma, of Montreal and Vancouver in Canada, of Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands, and of Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Kenosha, Teaneck, Racine, Detroit, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Winnetka, Phoenix, Columbus, Lima, Portland, Jersey City, Wilmette, Peoria, Seattle, Binghamton, Helena, Richmond Highlands, Miami, Pasadena, Oakland, Indianapolis, St. Paul, Berkeley, Urbana, Springfield and Flint in the United States of America -- all these succeeded, gradually and after submitting the text of almost identical Bahá'í local constitutions to the civil authorities in their respective states or provinces, in constituting themselves into societies and corporations recognized by law, and protected by the civil statutes operating in their respective countries.Page 337
Just as the formulation of Bahá'í constitutions had provided the foundation for the incorporation of Bahá'í Spiritual Assemblies, so did the recognition accorded by local and national authorities to the elected representatives of Bahá'í communities pave the way for the establishment of national and local Bahá'í endowments -- a historic undertaking which, as had been the case with previous achievements of far-reaching importance, the American Bahá'í Community was the first to initiate. In most cases these endowments, owing to their religious character, have been exempted from both government and municipal taxes, as a result of representations made by the incorporated Bahá'í bodies to the civil authorities, though the value of the properties thus exempted has, in more than one country, amounted to a considerable sum.
In the United States of America the national endowments of the Faith, already representing one and three-quarter million dollars of assets, and established through a series of Indentures of Trust, created in 1928, 1929, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1941 and 1942 by the National Spiritual Assembly in that country, acting as Trustees of the American Bahá'í Community, now include the land and structure of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, and the caretaker's cottage in Wilmette, Ill.; the adjoining Haziratu'l-Quds (Bahá'í National Headquarters) and its supplementary administrative office; the Inn, the Fellowship House, the Bahá'í Hall, the Arts and Crafts Studio, a farm, a number of cottages, several parcels of land, including the holding on Monsalvat, blessed by the footsteps of Abdu'l-Bahá, in Green Acre, in the state of Maine; Bosch House, the Bahá'í Hall, a fruit orchard, the Redwood Grove, a dormitory and Ranch Buildings in Geyserville, Calif.; Wilhelm House, Evergreen Cabin, a pine grove and seven lots with buildings at West Englewood, N.J., the scene of the memorable Unity Feast given by Abdu'l-Bahá, in June, 1912, to the Bahá'ís of the New York Metropolitan district; Wilson House, blessed by His presence, and land in Malden, Mass.; Mathews House and Ranch Buildings in Pine Valley, Colo.; land in Muskegon, Mich., and a cemetery lot in Portsmouth, N.H.
Of even greater importance, and in their aggregate far surpassing in value the national endowments of the American Bahá'í community, though their title-deeds are, owing to the inability of the Persian Bahá'í community to incorporate its national and local assemblies, held in trust by individuals, are the assets which the Faith now possesses in the land of its origin. To the House of the Báb in Shiraz and the ancestral Home of Bahá'u'lláh in Takur, Mazindaran, already in thePage 338
possession of the community in the days of Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry, have, since His ascension, been added extensive properties, in the outskirts of the capital, situated on the slopes of Mt. Alburz, overlooking the native city of Bahá'u'lláh, including a farm, a garden and vineyard, comprising an area of over three million and a half square meters, preserved as the future site of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in Persia. Other acquisitions that have greatly extended the range of Bahá'í endowments in that country include the House in which Bahá'u'lláh was born in Tihran; several buildings adjoining the House of the Báb in Shiraz, including the house owned by His maternal uncle; the Haziratu'l-Quds in Tihran; the shop occupied by the Báb during the years He was a merchant in Bushihr; a quarter of the village of Chihriq, where He was confined; the house of Haji Mirza Jani, where He tarried on His way to Tabriz; the public bath used by Him in Shiraz and some adjacent houses; half of the house owned by Vahid in Nayriz and part of the house owned by Hujjat in Zanjan; the three gardens rented by Bahá'u'lláh in the hamlet of Badasht; the burial-place of Quddus in Barfurush; the house of Kalantar in Tihran, the scene of Tahirih's confinement; the public bath visited by the Báb when in Urumiyyih, Adhirbayjan; the house owned by Mirza Husayn-'Aliy-i-Nur, where the Báb's remains had been concealed; the Bábiyyih and the house owned by Mulla Husayn in Mashhad; the residence of the Sultanu'sh-Shuhada (King of Martyrs) and of the Mahbubu'sh-Shuhada (Beloved of Martyrs) in Isfahan, as well as a considerable number of sites and houses, including burial-places, associated with the heroes and martyrs of the Faith. These holdings which, with very few exceptions, have been recently acquired in Persia, are now being preserved and yearly augmented, and, whenever necessary, carefully restored, through the assiduous efforts of a specially appointed national committee, acting under the constant and general supervision of the elected representatives of the Persian believers.
Nor should mention be omitted of the varied and multiplying national assets which, ever since the inception of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, have been steadily acquired in other countries such as India, Burma, the British Isles, Germany, Iraq, Egypt, Australia, Transjordan and Syria. Among these may be specially mentioned the Haziratu'l-Quds of the Bahá'ís of Iraq, the Haziratu'l-Quds of the Bahá'ís of Egypt, the Haziratu'l-Quds of the Bahá'ís of India, the Haziratu'l-Quds of the Bahá'ís of Australia, the Bahá'í Home in Esslingen, the Publishing Trust of the Bahá'ís of thePage 339
British Isles, the Bahá'í Pilgrim House in Baghdad, and the Bahá'í Cemeteries established in the capitals of Persia, Egypt and Turkistan. Whether in the form of land, schools, administrative headquarters, secretariats, libraries, cemeteries, hostels or publishing companies, these widely scattered assets, partly registered in the name of incorporated National Assemblies, and partly held in trust by individual recognized believers, have contributed their share to the uninterrupted expansion of national Bahá'í endowments in recent years as well as to the consolidation of their foundations. Of vital importance, though less notable in significance, have been, moreover, the local endowments which have supplemented the national assets of the Faith and which, in consequence of the incorporation of Bahá'í local Assemblies, have been legally established and safeguarded in various countries in both the East and the West. Particularly in Persia these holdings, whether in the form of land, administrative buildings, schools or other institutions, have greatly enriched and widened the scope of the local endowments of the world-wide Bahá'í community.
Simultaneous with the establishment and incorporation of local and national Bahá'í Assemblies, with the formation of their respective committees, the formulation of national and local Bahá'í constitutions and the founding of Bahá'í endowments, undertakings of great institutional significance were initiated by these newly founded Assemblies, among which the institution of the Haziratu'l-Quds -- the seat of the Bahá'í National Assembly and pivot of all Bahá'í administrative activity in future -- must rank as one of the most important. Originating first in Persia, now universally known by its official and distinctive title signifying "the Sacred Fold," marking a notable advance in the evolution of a process whose beginnings may be traced to the clandestine gatherings held at times underground and in the dead of night, by the persecuted followers of the Faith in that country, this institution, still in the early stages of its development, has already lent its share to the consolidation of the internal functions of the organic Bahá'í community, and provided a further visible evidence of its steady growth and rising power. Complementary in its functions to those of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar -- an edifice exclusively reserved for Bahá'í worship -- this institution, whether local or national, will, as its component parts, such as the Secretariat, the Treasury, the Archives, the Library, the Publishing Office, the Assembly Hall, the Council Chamber, the Pilgrims' Hostel, are brought together and made jointly to operate in one spot, be increasingly regarded as the focus of all Bahá'í administrative activity, and symbolize, in a befitting manner,Page 340
the ideal of service animating the Bahá'í community in its relation alike to the Faith and to mankind in general.
From the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, ordained as a house of worship by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the representatives of Bahá'í communities, both local and national, together with the members of their respective committees, will, as they gather daily within its walls at the hour of dawn, derive the necessary inspiration that will enable them to discharge, in the course of their day-to-day exertions in the Haziratu'l-Quds -- the scene of their administrative activities -- their duties and responsibilities as befits the chosen stewards of His Faith.
Already on the shores of Lake Michigan, in the outskirts of the first Bahá'í center established in the American continent and under the shadow of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the West; in the capital city of Persia, the cradle of the Faith; in the vicinity of the Most Great House in Baghdad; in the city of Ishqabad, adjoining the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world; in the capital of Egypt, the foremost center of both the Arab and Islamic worlds; in Delhi, the capital city of India and even in Sydney in far-off Australia, initial steps have been taken which must eventually culminate in the establishment, in all their splendor and power, of the national administrative seats of the Bahá'í communities established in these countries.
Locally, moreover, in the above-mentioned countries, as well as in several others, the preliminary measures for the establishment of this institution, in the form of a house, either owned or rented by the local Bahá'í community, have been taken, foremost among them being the numerous administrative buildings which, in various provinces of Persia, the believers have, despite the disabilities from which they suffer, succeeded in either purchasing or constructing.
Equally important as a factor in the evolution of the Administrative Order has been the remarkable progress achieved, particularly in the United States of America, by the institution of the summer schools designed to foster the spirit of fellowship in a distinctly Bahá'í atmosphere, to afford the necessary training for Bahá'í teachers, and to provide facilities for the study of the history and teachings of the Faith, and for a better understanding of its relation to other religions and to human society in general.
Established in three regional centers, for the three major divisions of the North American continent, in Geyserville, in the Californian hills (1927), at Green Acre, situated on the banks of the Piscataqua in the state of Maine (1929), and at Louhelen Ranch near Davison, Michigan (1931), and recently supplemented by the InternationalPage 341
School founded at Pine Valley, Colorado Springs, dedicated to the training of Bahá'í teachers wishing to serve in other lands and especially in Latin America, these three embryonic Bahá'í educational institutions have, through a steady expansion of their programs, set an example worthy of emulation by other Bahá'í communities in both the East and the West. Through the intensive study of Bahá'í Scriptures and of the early history of the Faith; through the organization of courses on the teachings and history of Islam; through conferences for the promotion of inter-racial amity; through laboratory courses designed to familiarize the participants with the processes of the Bahá'í Administrative Order; through special sessions devoted to Youth and child training; through classes in public speaking; through lectures on Comparative Religion; through group discussion on the manifold aspects of the Faith; through the establishment of libraries; through teaching classes; through courses on Bahá'í ethics and on Latin America; through the introduction of winter school sessions; through forums and devotional gatherings; through plays and pageants; through picnics and other recreational activities, these schools, open to Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís alike, have set so noble an example as to inspire other Bahá'í communities in Persia, in the British Isles, in Germany, in Australia, in New Zealand, in India, in Iraq and in Egypt to undertake the initial measures designed to enable them to build along the same lines institutions that bid fair to evolve into the Bahá'í universities of the future.
Among other factors contributing to the expansion and establishment of the Administrative Order may be mentioned the organized activities of the Bahá'í Youth, already much advanced in Persia and in the United States of America, and launched more recently in India, in the British Isles, in Germany, in Iraq, in Egypt, in Australia, in Bulgaria, in the Hawaiian Islands, in Hungary and in Havana. These activities comprise annual world-wide Bahá'í Youth Symposiums, Youth sessions at Bahá'í summer schools, youth bulletins and magazines, an international correspondence Bureau, facilities for the registration of young people desiring to join the Faith, the publication of outlines and references for the study of the teachings and the organization of a Bahá'í study group as an official university activity in a leading American university. They include, moreover, "study days" held in Bahá'í homes and centers, classes for the study of Esperanto and other languages, the organization of Bahá'í libraries, the opening of reading rooms, the production of Bahá'í plays and pageants, the holding of oratorical contests, the education of orphans, the organization ofPage 342
classes in public speaking, the holding of gatherings to perpetuate the memory of historical Bahá'í personalities, inter-group regional conferences and youth sessions held in connection with Bahá'í annual conventions.
Still other factors promoting the development of that Order and contributing to its consolidation have been the systematic institution of the Nineteen Day Feast, functioning in most Bahá'í communities in East and West, with its threefold emphasis on the devotional, the administrative and the social aspects of Bahá'í community life; the initiation of activities designed to prepare a census of Bahá'í children, and provide for them laboratory courses, prayer books and elementary literature, and the formulation and publication of a body of authoritative statements on the non-political character of the Faith, on membership in non-Bahá'í religious organizations, on methods of teaching, on the Bahá'í attitude towards war, on the institutions of the Annual Convention, of the Bahá'í Spiritual Assembly, of the Nineteen Day Feast and of the National Fund. Reference should, moreover, be made to the establishment of National Archives for the authentication, the collection, the translation, the cataloguing and the preservation of the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and of Abdu'l-Bahá and for the preservation of sacred relics and historical documents; to the verification and transcription of the original Tablets of the Báb, of Bahá'u'lláh and of Abdu'l-Bahá in the possession of Oriental believers; to the compilation of a detailed history of the Faith since its inception until the present day; to the opening of a Bahá'í International Bureau in Geneva; to the holding of Bahá'í district conventions; to the purchase of historic sites; to the establishment of Bahá'í memorial libraries, and to the initiation of a flourishing children's Savings Bank in Persia.
Nor should mention be omitted of the participation, whether official or non-official, of representatives of these newly founded national Bahá'í communities in the activities and proceedings of a great variety of congresses, associations, conventions and conferences, held in various countries of Europe, Asia and America for the promotion of religious unity, peace, education, international cooperation, inter-racial amity and other humanitarian purposes. With organizations such as the Conference of some Living Religions within the British Empire, held in London in 1924 and the World Fellowship of Faiths held in that same city in 1936; with the Universal Esperanto Congresses held annually in various capitals of Europe; with the Institute of Intellectual Cooperation; with the Century of Progress Exhibition held in Chicago in 1933; with the World's Fair held in NewPage 343
York in 1938 and 1939; with the Golden Gate International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1939; with the First Convention of the Religious Congress held in Calcutta; with the Second All-India Cultural Conference convened in that same city; with the All-Faiths' League Convention in Indore; with the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj Conferences as well as those of the Theosophical Society and the All-Asian Women's Conference, held in various cities of India; with the World Council of Youth; with the Eastern Women's Congress in Tihran; with the Pan-Pacific Women's Conference in Honolulu; with the Women's International League for Peace and with the Peoples Conference at Buenos Aires in Argentina -- with these and others, relationships have, in one form or another, been cultivated which have served the twofold purpose of demonstrating the universality and comprehensiveness of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and of forging vital and enduring links between them and the far-flung agencies of its Administrative Order.
Nor should we ignore or underestimate the contacts established between these same agencies and some of the highest governmental authorities, in both the East and the West, as well as with the heads of Islam in Persia, and with the League of Nations, and with even royalty itself for the purpose of defending the rights, or of presenting the literature, or of setting forth the aims and purposes of the followers of the Faith in their unremitting efforts to champion the cause of an infant Administrative Order. The communications addressed by the members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada -- the champion builders of that Order -- to the Palestine High Commissioner for the restitution of the keys of the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh to its custodian; to the Shah of Persia, on four occasions, pleading for justice on behalf of their persecuted brethren within his domains; to the Persian Prime Minister on that same subject; to Queen Marie of Rumania, expressing gratitude for her historic tributes to the Bahá'í Faith; to the Heads of Islam in Persia, appealing for harmony and peace among religions; to King Feisal of Iraq for the purpose of insuring the security of the Most Great House in Baghdad; to the Soviet Authorities on behalf of the Bahá'í communities in Russia; to the German authorities regarding the disabilities suffered by their German brethren; to the Egyptian Government concerning the emancipation of their co-religionists from the yoke of Islamic orthodoxy; to the Persian Cabinet in connection with the closing of Persian Bahá'í educational institutions; to the State Department of the United States Government and the Turkish Ambassador in Washington andPage 344
the Turkish Cabinet in Ankara, in defense of the interests of the Faith in Turkey; to that same State Department in order to facilitate the transfer of the remains of Lua Getsinger from the Protestant Cemetery in Cairo to the first Bahá'í burial-ground established in Egypt; to the Persian Minister in Washington regarding the mission of Keith Ransom-Kehler; to the King of Egypt with accompanying Bahá'í literature; to the Government of the United States and the Canadian Government, setting forth the Bahá'í teachings on Universal Peace; to the Rumanian Minister in Washington on behalf of the American Baha'is, on the occasion of the death of Queen Marie of Rumania; and to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, acquainting him with Bahá'u'lláh's summons issued in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas to the Presidents of the American Republics and with certain prayers revealed by Abdu'l-Bahá -- such communications constitute in themselves a notable and illuminating chapter in the history of the unfoldment of the Bahá'í Administrative Order.
To these must be added the communications addressed from the world center of the Faith as well as by Bahá'í national and local assemblies, whether telegraphically or in writing, to the Palestine High Commissioner, pleading for the delivery of the keys of the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh to its original keeper; the appeals made by Bahá'í centers in East and West to the Iraqi authorities for the restoration of the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad; the subsequent appeal made to the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, following the verdict of the Baghdad Court of Appeals in that connection; the messages despatched to the League of Nations on behalf of Bahá'í communities in the East and in the West, in appreciation of the official pronouncement of the Council of the League in favor of the claims presented by the Bahá'í petitioners, as well as several letters exchanged between the International Center of the Faith, on the one hand, and that archetype of Bahá'í teachers, Martha Root, on the other, with Queen Marie of Rumania, following the publication of her historic appreciations of the Faith, and the messages of sympathy addressed to Queen Marie of Yugoslavia, on behalf of the world-wide Bahá'í Community, on the occasion of the passing of her mother, and to the Duchess of Kent following the tragic death of her husband.
Nor should we fail to make special mention of the petition forwarded by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Iraq to the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, as a result of the seizure of Bahá'u'lláh's house in Baghdad, or of the written messages sent to King Ghazi I of Iraq by that same Assembly, after the deathPage 345
of his father and on the occasion of his marriage, or of its condolences conveyed in writing to the present Regent of Iraq at the time of the sudden death of that King, or of the communications of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Egypt submitted to the Egyptian Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior, and the Minister of Justice, following the verdict of the Muslim ecclesiastical court in Egypt, or of the letters addressed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Persia to the Shah and to the Persian Cabinet in connection with the closing of Bahá'í schools and the ban imposed on Bahá'í literature in that country. Mention should, moreover, be made of the written messages despatched by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Persia to the King of Rumania and the Royal Family on the occasion of the death of his mother, Queen Marie, as well as to the Turkish Ambassador in Tihran enclosing the contribution of the Persian believers for the sufferers of the earthquake in Turkey; of Martha Root's letters to the late President Von Hindenburg and to Dr. Streseman, the German Foreign Minister, accompanying the presentation to them of Bahá'í literature; of Keith Ransom-Kehler's seven successive petitions addressed to the Shah of Persia, and of her numerous communications to various ministers and high dignitaries of the realm, during her memorable visit to that land.
Collateral with these first stirrings of the Bahá'í Administrative Order, and synchronizing with the emergence of National Bahá'í communities and with the institution of their administrative, educational, and teaching agencies, the mighty process set in motion in the Holy Land, the heart and nerve-center of that Administrative Order, on the memorable occasions when Bahá'u'lláh revealed the Tablet of Carmel and visited the future site of the Báb's sepulcher, was irresistibly unfolding. That process had received a tremendous impetus through the purchase of that site, shortly after Bahá'u'lláh's ascension, through the subsequent transfer of the Báb's remains from Tihran to Akka, through the construction of that sepulcher during the most distressful years of Abdu'l-Bahá'í incarceration, and lastly through the permanent interment of those remains in the heart of Mt. Carmel, through the establishment of a pilgrim house in the immediate vicinity of that sepulcher, and the selection of the future site of the first Bahá'í educational institution on that mountain.
Profiting from the freedom accorded the world center of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, ever since the ignominious defeat of the decrepit Ottoman empire during the war of 1914-18, the forces released through the inception of the stupendous Plan conceived by Him could now flowPage 346
unchecked, under the beneficent influence of a sympathetic regime, into channels designed to disclose to the world at large the potencies with which that Plan had been endowed. The interment of Abdu'l-Bahá Himself within a vault of the Báb's mausoleum, enhancing still further the sacredness of that mountain; the installment of an electric plant, the first of its kind established in the city of Haifa, flooding with illumination the Grave of One Who, in His own words, had been denied even "a lighted lamp" in His fortress-prison in Adhirbayjan; the construction of three additional chambers adjoining His sepulcher, thereby completing Abdu'l-Bahá'í plan for the first unit of that Edifice; the vast extension, despite the machinations of the Covenant-breakers, of the properties surrounding that resting-place, sweeping from the ridge of Carmel down to the Templar colony nestling at its foot, and representing assets estimated at no less than four hundred thousand pounds, together with the acquisition of four tracts of land, dedicated to the Bahá'í Shrines, and situated in the plain of Akka to the north, in the district of Beersheba to the south, and in the valley of the Jordan to the east, amounting to approximately six hundred acres; the opening of a series of terraces which, as designed by Abdu'l-Bahá, are to provide a direct approach to the Báb's Tomb from the city lying under its shadow; the beautification of its precincts through the laying out of parks and gardens, open daily to the public, and attracting tourists and residents alike to its gates -- these may be regarded as the initial evidences of the marvelous expansion of the international institutions and endowments of the Faith at its world center. Of particular significance, moreover, has been the exemption granted by the Palestine High Commissioner to the entire area of land surrounding and dedicated to the Shrine of the Báb, to the school property and the archives in its vicinity, to the Western pilgrim-house situated in its neighborhood, and to such historic sites as the Mansion in Bahji, the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Akka, and the garden of Ridvan to the east of that city; the establishment, as a result of two formal applications submitted to the civil authorities, of the Palestine Branches of the American and Indian National Spiritual Assemblies, as recognized religious societies in Palestine (to be followed, for purposes of internal consolidation, by a similar incorporation of the branches of other National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the Bahá'í world); and the transfer to the Branch of the American National Spiritual Assembly, through a series of no less than thirty transactions, of properties dedicated to the Tomb of the Báb, and approximating in their aggregate fifty thousand square meters, the majority of the title-deedsPage 347
of which bear the signature of the son of the Arch-breaker of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant in his capacity as Registrar of lands in Haifa.
Equally significant has been the founding on Mt. Carmel of two international Archives, the one adjoining the shrine of the Báb, the other in the immediate vicinity of the resting-place of the Greatest Holy Leaf, where, for the first time in Bahá'í history, priceless treasures, hitherto scattered and often hidden for safekeeping, have been collected and are now displayed to visiting pilgrims. These treasures include portraits of both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh; personal relics such as the hair, the dust and garments of the Báb; the locks and blood of Bahá'u'lláh and such articles as His pen-case, His garments, His brocaded tajes (head dresses), the kashkul of His Sulaymaniyyih days, His watch and His Qur'an; manuscripts and Tablets of inestimable value, some of them illuminated, such as part of the Hidden Words written in Bahá'u'lláh's own hand, the Persian Bayan, in the handwriting of Siyyid Husayn, the Báb's amanuensis, the original Tablets to the Letters of the Living penned by the Báb, and the manuscript of "Some Answered Questions." This precious collection, moreover, includes objects and effects associated with Abdu'l-Bahá; the blood-stained garment of the Purest Branch, the ring of Quddus, the sword of Mulla Husayn, the seals of the Vazir, the father of Bahá'u'lláh, the brooch presented by the Queen of Rumania to Martha Root, the originals of the Queen's letters to her and to others, and of her tributes to the Faith, as well as no less than twenty volumes of prayers and Tablets revealed by the Founders of the Faith, authenticated and transcribed by Bahá'í Assemblies throughout the Orient, and supplementing the vast collection of their published writings.
Moreover, as a further testimony to the majestic unfoldment and progressive consolidation of the stupendous undertaking launched by Bahá'u'lláh on that holy mountain, may be mentioned the selection of a portion of the school property situated in the precincts of the Shrine of the Báb as a permanent resting-place for the Greatest Holy Leaf, the "well-beloved" sister of Abdu'l-Bahá, the "Leaf that hath sprung" from the "Pre-existent Root," the "fragrance" of Bahá'u'lláh's "shining robe," elevated by Him to a "station such as none other woman hath surpassed," and comparable in rank to those immortal heroines such as Sarah, Asiyih, the Virgin Mary, Fatimih and Tahirih, each of whom has outshone every member of her sex in previous Dispensations. And lastly, there should be mentioned, as a further evidence of the blessings flowing from the Divine Plan, the transfer, a few years later, to that same hallowed spot, after a separation in death of above half aPage 348
century, and notwithstanding the protests voiced by the brother and lieutenant of the arch-breaker of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, of the remains of the Purest Branch, the martyred son of Bahá'u'lláh, "created of the light of Baha," the "Trust of God" and His "Treasure" in the Holy Land, and offered up by his Father as a "ransom" for the regeneration of the world and the unification of its peoples. To this same burial-ground, and on the same day the remains of the Purest Branch were interred, was transferred the body of his mother, the saintly Navvab, she to whose dire afflictions, as attested by Abdu'l-Bahá in a Tablet, the 54th chapter of the Book of Isaiah has, in its entirety, borne witness, whose "Husband," in the words of that Prophet, is "the Lord of Hosts," whose "seed shall inherit the Gentiles," and whom Bahá'u'lláh in His Tablet, has destined to be "His consort in every one of His worlds."
The conjunction of these three resting-places, under the shadow of the Báb's own Tomb, embosomed in the heart of Carmel, facing the snow-white city across the bay of Akka, the Qiblih of the Bahá'í world, set in a garden of exquisite beauty, reinforces, if we would correctly estimate its significance, the spiritual potencies of a spot, designated by Bahá'u'lláh Himself the seat of God's throne. It marks, too, a further milestone in the road leading eventually to the establishment of that permanent world Administrative Center of the future Bahá'í Commonwealth, destined never to be separated from, and to function in the proximity of, the Spiritual Center of that Faith, in a land already revered and held sacred alike by the adherents of three of the world's outstanding religious systems.
Scarcely less significant has been the erection of the superstructure and the completion of the exterior ornamentation of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the West, the noblest of the exploits which have immortalized the services of the American Bahá'í community to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. Consummated through the agency of an efficiently functioning and newly established Administrative Order, this enterprise has itself immensely enhanced the prestige, consolidated the strength and expanded the subsidiary institutions of the community that made its building possible.
Conceived forty-one years ago; originating with the petition spontaneously addressed, in March 1903 to Abdu'l-Bahá by the "House of Spirituality" of the Bahá'ís of Chicago -- the first Bahá'í center established in the Western world -- the members of which, inspired by the example set by the builders of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of Ishqabad, had appealed for permission to construct a similar Temple inPage 349
America; blessed by His approval and high commendation in a Tablet revealed by Him in June of that same year; launched by the delegates of various American Assemblies, assembled in Chicago in November, 1907, for the purpose of choosing the site of the Temple; established on a national basis through a religious corporation known as the "Bahá'í Temple Unity," which was incorporated shortly after the first American Bahá'í Convention held in that same city in March, 1909; honored through the dedication ceremony presided over by Abdu'l-Bahá Himself when visiting that site in May, 1912, this enterprise -- the crowning achievement of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in the first Bahá'í century -- had, ever since that memorable occasion, been progressing intermittently until the time when the foundations of that Order having been firmly laid in the North American continent the American Bahá'í community was in a position to utilize the instruments which it had forged for the efficient prosecution of its task.
At the 1914 American Bahá'í Convention the purchase of the Temple property was completed. The 1920 Convention, held in New York, having been previously directed by Abdu'l-Bahá to select the design of that Temple, chose from among a number of designs competitively submitted to it that of Louis J. Bourgeois, a French-Canadian architect, a selection that was later confirmed by Abdu'l-Bahá Himself. The contracts for the sinking of the nine great caissons supporting the central portion of the building, extending to rock at a depth of 120 feet below the ground level, and for the construction of the basement structure, were successively awarded in December, 1920 and August, 1921. In August, 1930, in spite of the prevailing economic crisis, and during a period of unemployment unparalleled in American history, another contract, with twenty-four additional sub-contracts, for the erection of the superstructure was placed, and the work completed by May 1, 1931, on which day the first devotional service in the new structure was celebrated, coinciding with the 19th anniversary of the dedication of the grounds by Abdu'l-Bahá. The ornamentation of the dome was started in June, 1932 and finished in January, 1934. The ornamentation of the clerestory was completed in July, 1935, and that of the gallery unit below it in November, 1938. The mainstory ornamentation was, despite the outbreak of the present war, undertaken in April, 1940, and completed in July, 1942; whilst the eighteen circular steps were placed in position by December, 1942, seventeen months in advance of the centenary celebration of the Faith, by which time the exterior of the Temple was scheduled to be finished, and forty yearsPage 350
after the petition of the Chicago believers had been submitted to and granted by Abdu'l-Bahá.
This unique edifice, the first fruit of a slowly maturing Administrative Order, the noblest structure reared in the first Bahá'í century, and the symbol and precursor of a future world civilization, is situated in the heart of the North American continent, on the western shore of Lake Michigan, and is surrounded by its own grounds comprising a little less than seven acres. It has been financed, at cost of over a million dollars, by the American Bahá'í community, assisted at times by voluntary contributions of recognized believers in East and West, of Christian, of Muslim, of Jewish, of Zoroastrian, of Hindu and Buddhist extraction. It has been associated, in its initial phase, with Abdu'l-Bahá, and in the concluding stages of its construction with the memory of the Greatest Holy Leaf, the Purest Branch, and their mother. The structure itself is a pure white nonagonal building, of original and unique design, rising from a flight of white stairs encircling its base; and surmounted by a majestic and beautifully proportioned dome, bearing nine tapering symmetrically placed ribs of decorative as well as structural significance, which soar to its apex and finally merge into a common unit pointing skyward. Its framework is constructed of structural steel enclosed in concrete, the material of its ornamentation consisting of a combination of crystalline quartz, opaque quartz and white Portland cement, producing a composition clear in texture, hard and enduring as stone, impervious to the elements, and cast into a design as delicate as lace. It soars 191 feet from the floor of its basement to the culmination of the ribs, clasping the hemispherical dome which is forty-nine feet high, with an external diameter of ninety feet, and one-third of the surface of which is perforated to admit light during the day and emit light at night. It is buttressed by pylons forty-five feet in height, and bears above its nine entrances, one of which faces Akka, nine selected quotations from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, as well as the Greatest Name in the center of each of the arches over its doors. It is consecrated exclusively to worship, devoid of all ceremony and ritual, is provided with an auditorium which can seat 1600 people, and is to be supplemented by accessory institutions of social service to be established in its vicinity, such as an orphanage, a hospital, a dispensary for the poor, a home for the incapacitated, a hostel for travelers and a college for the study of arts and sciences. It had already, long before its construction, evoked, and is now increasingly evoking, though its interior ornamentation is as yet unbegun, such interest and comment, in the public press, in technical journals and in magazines,Page 351
of both the United States and other countries, as to justify the hopes and expectations entertained for it by Abdu'l-Bahá. Its model exhibited at Art centers, galleries, state fairs and national expositions -- among which may be mentioned the Century of Progress Exhibition, held in Chicago in 1933, where no less than ten thousand people, passing through the Hall of Religions, must have viewed it every day -- its replica forming a part of the permanent exhibit of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago; its doors now thronged by visitors from far and near, whose number, during the period from June, 1932 to October, 1941 has exceeded 130,000 people, representing almost every country in the world, this great "Silent Teacher" of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, it may be confidently asserted, has contributed to the diffusion of the knowledge of His Faith and teachings in a measure which no other single agency, operating within the framework of its Administrative Order, has ever remotely approached.
"When the foundation of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar is laid in America," Abdu'l-Bahá Himself has predicted, "and that Divine Edifice is completed, a most wonderful and thrilling motion will appear in the world of existence... From that point of light the spirit of teaching, spreading the Cause of God and promoting the teachings of God, will permeate to all parts of the world." "Out of this Mashriqu'l-Adhkar," He has affirmed in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, "without doubt, thousands of Mashriqu'l-Adhkars will be born." "It marks," He, furthermore, has written, "the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth." And again: "It is the manifest Standard waving in the center of that great continent." "Thousands of Mashriqu'l-Adhkars," He, when dedicating the grounds of the Temple, declared, "...will be built in the East and in the West, but this, being the first erected in the Occident, has great importance." "This organization of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar," He, referring to that edifice, has moreover stated, "will be a model for the coming centuries, and will hold the station of the mother."
"Its inception," the architect of the Temple has himself testified, "was not from man, for, as musicians, artists, poets receive their inspiration from another realm, so the Temple's architect, through all his years of labor, was ever conscious that Bahá'u'lláh was the creator of this building to be erected to His glory." "Into this new design," he, furthermore, has written, "...is woven, in symbolic form, the great Bahá'í teaching of unity -- the unity of all religions and of all mankind. There are combinations of mathematical lines, symbolizing those of the universe, and in their intricate merging of circle into circle,Page 352
and circle within circle, we visualize the merging of all the religions into one." And again: "A circle of steps, eighteen in all, will surround the structure on the outside, and lead to the auditorium floor. These eighteen steps represent the eighteen first disciples of the Báb, and the door to which they lead stands for the Báb Himself." "As the essence of the pure original teachings of the historic religions was the same ... in the Bahá'í Temple is used a composite architecture, expressing the essence in the line of each of the great architectural styles, harmonizing them into one whole."
"It is the first new idea in architecture since the 13th century," declared a distinguished architect, H. Van Buren Magonigle, President of the Architectural League, after gazing upon a plaster model of the Temple on exhibition in the Engineering Societies Building in New York, in June 1920. "The Architect," he, moreover, has stated, "has conceived a Temple of Light in which structure, as usually understood, is to be concealed, visible support eliminated as far as possible, and the whole fabric to take on the airy substance of a dream. It is a lacy envelope enshrining an idea, the idea of light, a shelter of cobweb interposed between earth and sky, struck through and through with light -- light which shall partly consume the forms and make of it a thing of faery."
"In the geometric forms of the ornamentation," a writer in the well-known publication "Architectural Record" has written, "covering the columns and surrounding windows and doors of the Temple, one deciphers all the religious symbols of the world. Here are the swastika, the circle, the cross, the triangle, the double triangle or six pointed star (Solomon's seal) -- but more than this -- the noble symbol of the spiritual orb ... the five pointed star; the Greek Cross, the Roman cross, and supreme above all, the wonderful nine pointed star, figured in the structure of the Temple itself, and appearing again and again in its ornamentation as significant of the spiritual glory in the world today."
"The greatest creation since the Gothic period," is the testimony of George Grey Barnard, one of the most widely-known sculptors in the United States of America, "and the most beautiful I have ever seen."
"This is a new creation," Prof. Luigi Quaglino, ex-professor of Architecture from Turin declared, after viewing the model, "which will revolutionize architecture in the world, and it is the most beautiful I have ever seen. Without doubt it will have a lasting page in history. It is a revelation from another world."
"Americans," wrote Sherwin Cody, in the magazine section of thePage 353
New York Times, of the model of the Temple, when exhibited in the Kevorkian Gallery in New York, "will have to pause long enough to find that an artist has wrought into this building the conception of a Religious League of Nations." And lastly, this tribute paid to the features of, and the ideals embodied in, this Temple -- the most sacred House of Worship in the Bahá'í world, whether of the present or of the future -- by Dr. Rexford Newcomb, Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois: "This 'Temple of Light' opens upon the terrain of human experience nine great doorways which beckon men and women of every race and clime, of every faith and conviction, of every condition of freedom or servitude to enter here into a recognition of that kinship and brotherhood without which the modern world will be able to make little further progress ...The dome, pointed in form, aiming as assuredly as did the aspiring lines of the medieval cathedrals toward higher and better things, achieves not only through its symbolism but also through its structural propriety and sheer loveliness of form, a beauty not matched by any domical structure since the construction of Michelangelo's dome on the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome."Page 354
The institutions signalizing the rise and establishment of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh did not (as the history of their unfoldment abundantly demonstrates) remain immune against the assaults and persecutions to which the Faith itself, the progenitor of that Order, had, for over seventy years, been subjected, and from which it is still suffering. The emergence of a firmly knit community, advancing the claims of a world religion, with ramifications spread over five continents representing a great variety of races, languages, classes and religious traditions; provided with a literature scattered over the surface of the earth, and expounding in several languages its doctrine; clear-visioned, unafraid, alert and determined to achieve at whatever sacrifice its goal; organically united through the machinery of a divinely appointed Administrative Order; non-sectarian, non-political, faithful to its civil obligations yet supranational in character; tenacious in its adherence to the laws and ordinances regulating its community life -- the emergence of such a community, in a world steeped in prejudice, worshipping false gods, torn by intestine divisions, and blindly clinging to obsolescent doctrines and defective standards, could not but precipitate, sooner or later, crises no less grave, though less spectacular, than the persecutions which, in an earlier age, had raged around the Founders of that community and their early disciples. Assailed by enemies within, who have either rebelled against its God-given authority or wholly renounced their faith, or by adversaries from without, whether political or ecclesiastical, the infant Order identified with this community has, since its inception, and throughout every stage in its evolution, felt severely the impact of the forces which have sought in vain to strangle its budding life or to obscure its purpose.
To these attacks, destined to grow in scope and severity, and to arouse a tumult that will reverberate throughout the world, Abdu'l-Bahá Himself had already, at the time the outlines of that Divine order were being delineated by Him in His Will, significantly alluded: "Erelong shall the clamor of the multitude throughout Africa, throughout America, the cry of the European and of the Turk, thePage 355
groaning of India and China, be heard from far and near. One and all, they shall arise with all their power to resist His Cause. Then shall the knights of the Lord ... reinforced by the legions of the Covenant, arise and manifest the truth of the verse: 'Behold the confusion that hath befallen the tribes of the defeated!'"
Already in more than one country the trustees and elected representatives of this indestructible world-embracing Order have been summoned by civil authorities or ecclesiastical courts, ignorant of its claims, or hostile to its principles or fearful of its rising strength, to defend its cause, or to renounce their allegiance to it, or to curtail the range of its operation. Already an aggressive hand, unmindful of God's avenging wrath, has been stretched out against its sanctuaries and edifices. Already its defenders and champions have, in some countries, been declared heretics, or stigmatized as subverters of law and order, or branded as visionaries, unpatriotic and careless of their civic duties and responsibilities, or peremptorily ordered to suspend their activities and dissolve their institutions.
In the Holy Land, the world seat of this System, where its heart pulsates, where the dust of its Founders reposes, where the processes disclosing its purposes, energizing its life and shaping its destiny all originate, there fell, at the very hour of its inception, the first blow which served to proclaim to high and low alike the solidity of the foundations on which it has been established. The Covenant-breakers, now dwindled to a mere handful, instigated by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the Arch-rebel, whose dormant hopes had been awakened by Abdu'l-Bahá'í sudden ascension, and headed by the arrogant Mirza Badi'u'llah, seized forcibly the keys of the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh, expelled its keeper, the brave-souled Abu'l-Qasim-i-Khurasani, and demanded that their chief be recognized by the authorities as the legal custodian of that Shrine. Unadmonished by their abject failure, as witnessed by the firm action of the Palestine authorities, who, after prolonged investigations, instructed the British officer in Akka to deliver the keys into the hands of that same keeper, they resorted to other methods in the hope of creating a cleavage in the ranks of the bereaved yet resolute disciples of Abdu'l-Bahá and of ultimately undermining the foundations of the institutions His followers were laboring to erect. Through their mischievous misrepresentations of the ideals animating the builders of the Bahá'í Administrative Order; through the maintenance, though not on its original scale, of a subversive correspondence with individuals whose loyalty they hoped they could sap; through deliberate distortions of the truth in theirPage 356
contact with officials and notables whom they could approach; through attempts, made through bribery and intimidation, to purchase a part of the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh; through efforts directed at preventing the acquisition by the Bahá'í community of certain properties situated in the vicinity of the Tomb of the Báb, and at frustrating the design to consolidate the foundation of some of these properties by transferring their title-deeds to incorporated Bahá'í assemblies, they continued to labor intermittently for several years until the extinction of the life of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant himself virtually sealed their doom.
The evacuation of the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh by these Covenant-breakers, after their unchallenged occupancy of it since His ascension, a Mansion which, through their gross neglect, had fallen into a sad state of disrepair; its subsequent complete restoration, fulfilling a long cherished desire of Abdu'l-Bahá; its illumination through an electric plant installed by an American believer for that purpose; the refurnishing of all its rooms after it had been completely denuded by its former occupants of all the precious relics it contained, with the exception of a single candlestick in the room where Bahá'u'lláh had ascended; the collection within its walls of Bahá'í historic documents, of relics and of over five thousand volumes of Bahá'í literature, in no less than forty languages; the extension to it of the exemption from government taxes, already granted to other Bahá'í institutions and properties in Akka and on Mt. Carmel; and finally, its conversion from a private residence to a center of pilgrimage visited by Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís alike -- these served to further dash the hopes of those who were still desperately striving to extinguish the light of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. Furthermore, the success later achieved in purchasing and safeguarding the area forming the precincts of the resting-place of the Báb on Mt. Carmel, and the transfer of the title-deeds of some of these properties to the legally constituted Palestine Branch of the American Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly, no less than the circumstances attending the death of the one who had been the prime mover of mischief throughout Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry, demonstrated to these enemies the futility of their efforts and the hopelessness of their cause.
Of a more serious nature, and productive of still greater repercussions, was the unlawful seizure by the Shi'ahs of Iraq, at about the same time that the keys of the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh were wrested by the Covenant-breakers from its keeper, of yet another Bahá'í Shrine, the House occupied by Bahá'u'lláh for well nigh the whole period ofPage 357
His exile in Iraq, which had been acquired by Him, and later had been ordained as a center of pilgrimage, and had continued in the unbroken and undisputed possession of His followers ever since His departure from Baghdad. This crisis, originating about a year prior to Abdu'l-Bahá'í ascension, and precipitated by the measures which, after the change of regime in Iraq, had, according to His instructions, been taken for the reconstruction of that House, acquired as it developed a steadily widening measure of publicity. It became the object of the consideration of successive tribunals, first of the local Shi'ah Ja'fariyyih court in Baghdad, second of the Peace court, then the court of First Instance, then of the court of Appeal in Iraq, and finally of the League of Nations, the greatest international body yet come into existence, and empowered to exercise supervision and control over all Mandated Territories. Though as yet unresolved through a combination of causes, religious as well as political, it has already remarkably fulfilled Bahá'u'lláh's own prediction, and will, in its own appointed time, as the means for its solution are providentially created, fulfill the high destiny ordained for it by Him in His Tablets. Long before its seizure by fanatical enemies, who had no conceivable claim to it whatever, He had prophesied that "it shall be so abased in the days to come as to cause tears to flow from every discerning eye."
The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Baghdad, deprived of the use of that sacred property through an adverse decision by a majority of the court of Appeal, which had reversed the verdict of the lower court and awarded the property to the Shi'ahs, and aroused by subsequent action of the Shi'ahs, soon after the execution of the judgment of that court, in converting the building into waqf property (pious foundation), designating it "Husayniyyih," with the purpose of consolidating their gain, realized the futility of the three years of negotiations they had been conducting with the civil authorities in Baghdad for the righting of the wrong inflicted upon them. In their capacity as the national representatives of the Bahá'ís of Iraq, they, therefore, on September 11, 1928, through the High Commissioner for Iraq and in conformity with the provisions of Art. 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, approached the League's Permanent Mandates Commission, charged with the supervision of the administration of all Mandated Territories, and presented a petition that was accepted and approved by that body in November, 1928. A memorandum submitted, in connection with that petition, to that same Commission, by the Mandatory Power unequivocally stated that the Shi'ahs had "no conceivable claimPage 358
whatever" to the House, that the decision of the judge of the Ja'fariyyih court was "obviously wrong," "unjust" and "undoubtedly actuated by religious prejudice," that the subsequent ejectment of the Bahá'ís was "illegal," that the action of the authorities had been "highly irregular," and that the verdict of the Court of Appeal was suspected of not being "uninfluenced by political consideration."
"The Commission," states the Report submitted by it to the Council of the League, and published in the Minutes of the 14th session of the Permanent Mandates Commission, held in Geneva in the fall of 1928, and subsequently translated into Arabic and published in Iraq, "draws the Council's attention to the considerations and conclusions suggested to it by an examination of the petition... It recommends that the Council should ask the British Government to make representations to the Iraq Government with a view to the immediate redress of the denial of justice from which the petitioners have suffered."
The British accredited representative present at the sessions of the Commission, furthermore, stated that "the Mandatory Power had recognized that the Bahá'ís had suffered an injustice," whilst allusion was made, in the course of that session, to the fact that the action of the Shi'ahs constituted a breach of the constitution and the Organic Law of Iraq. The Finnish representative, moreover, in his report to the Council, declared that this "injustice must be attributed solely to religious passion," and asked that "the petitioner's wrongs should be redressed."
The Council of the League, on its part, having considered this report as well as the joint observations and conclusions of the Commission, unanimously adopted, on March 4, 1929, a resolution, subsequently translated and published in the newspapers of Baghdad, directing the Mandatory Power "to make representations to the Government of Iraq with a view to the immediate redress of the injustice suffered by the Petitioners." It instructed, accordingly, the Secretary General to bring to the notice of the Mandatory Power, as well as to the petitioners concerned, the conclusions arrived at by the Commission, an instruction which was duly transmitted by the British Government through its High Commissioner to the Iraq Government.
A letter dated January 12, 1931, written on behalf of the British Foreign Minister, Mr. Arthur Henderson, addressed to the League Secretariat, stated that the conclusions reached by the Council had "received the most careful consideration by the Government of Iraq," who had "finally decided to set up a special committee ... to considerPage 359
the views expressed by the Bahá'í community in respect of certain houses in Baghdad, and to formulate recommendations for an equitable settlement of this question." That letter, moreover, pointed out that the committee had submitted its report in August, 1930, that it had been accepted by the government, that the Bahá'í community had "accepted in principle" its recommendations, and that the authorities in Baghdad had directed that "detailed plans and estimates shall be prepared with a view to carrying these recommendations into effect during the coming financial year."
No need to dwell on the subsequent history of this momentous case, on the long-drawn out negotiations, the delays and complications that ensued; on the consultations, "over a hundred" in number, in which the king, his ministers and advisers took part; on the expressions of "regret," of "surprise" and of "anxiety" placed on record at successive sessions of the Mandates Commission held in Geneva in 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1933; on the condemnation by its members of the "spirit of intolerance" animating the Shi'ah community, of the "partiality" of the Iraqi courts, of the "weakness" of the civil authorities and of the "religious passion at the bottom of this injustice"; on their testimony to the "extremely conciliatory disposition" of the petitioners, on their "doubt" regarding the adequacy of the proposals, and on their recognition of the "serious" character of the situation that had been created, of the "flagrant denial of justice" which the Bahá'ís had suffered, and of the "moral debt" which the Iraq Government had contracted, a debt which, whatever the changes in her status as a nation, it was her bounden duty to discharge.
Nor does it seem necessary to expatiate on the unfortunate consequences of the untimely death of both the British High Commissioner and the Iraqi Prime Minister; on the admission of Iraq as a member of the League, and the consequent termination of the mandate held by Great Britain; on the tragic and unexpected death of the King himself; on the difficulties raised owing to the existence of a town planning scheme; on the written assurance conveyed to the High Commissioner by the acting Premier in his letter of January, 1932; on the pledge given by the King, prior to his death, in the presence of the foreign minister, in February, 1933, that the House would be expropriated, and the necessary sum would be appropriated in the spring of the ensuing year; on the categorical statement made by that same foreign minister that the Prime Minister had given the necessary assurances that the promise already made by the actingPage 360
Premier would be redeemed; or on the positive statements made by that same Foreign Minister and his colleague, the Minister of Finance, when representing their country during the sessions of the League Assembly held in Geneva, that the promise given by their late King would be fully honored.
Suffice it to say that, despite these interminable delays, protests and evasions, and the manifest failure of the Authorities concerned to implement the recommendations made by both the Council of the League and the Permanent Mandates Commission, the publicity achieved for the Faith by this memorable litigation, and the defense of its cause -- the cause of truth and justice -- by the world's highest tribunal, have been such as to excite the wonder of its friends and to fill with consternation its enemies. Few episodes, if any, since the birth of the Formative Age of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, have given rise to repercussions in high places comparable to the effect produced on governments and chancelleries by this violent and unprovoked assault directed by its inveterate enemies against one of its holiest sanctuaries.
"Grieve not, O House of God," Bahá'u'lláh Himself has significantly written, "if the veil of thy sanctity be rent asunder by the infidels. God hath, in the world of creation, adorned thee with the jewel of His remembrance. Such an ornament no man can, at any time, profane. Towards thee the eyes of thy Lord shall, under all conditions, remain directed." "In the fullness of time," He, in another passage, referring to that same House, has prophesied, "the Lord shall, by the power of truth, exalt it in the eyes of all men. He shall cause it to become the Standard of His Kingdom, the Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the faithful."
To the bold onslaught made by the breakers of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh in their concerted efforts to secure the custodianship of His holy Tomb, to the arbitrary seizure of His holy House in Baghdad by the Shi'ah community of Iraq, was to be added, a few years later, yet another grievous assault launched by a still more powerful adversary, directed against the very fabric of the Administrative Order as established by two long-flourishing Bahá'í communities of the East, culminating in the virtual disruption of these communities and the seizure of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world and of the few accessory institutions already reared about it.
The courage, the fervor and the spiritual vitality evinced by these communities; the highly organized state of their administrative institutions; the facilities provided for the religious education and trainingPage 361
of their youth; the conversion of a number of broad-minded Russian citizens, imbued with ideas closely related to the tenets of the Faith; the growing realization of the implications of its principles, with their emphasis on religion, on the sanctity of family life, on the institution of private property, and their repudiation of all discrimination between classes and of the doctrine of the absolute equality of men -- these combined to excite the suspicion, and later to arouse the fierce antagonism, of the ruling authorities, and to precipitate one of the gravest crises in the history of the first Bahá'í century.
As the crisis developed and spread to even the outlying centers of both Turkistan and the Caucasus it resulted gradually in the imposition of restrictions limiting the freedom of these communities, in the interrogation and arrest of their elected representatives, in the dissolution of their local Assemblies and their respective committees in Moscow, in Ishqabad, in Baku and in other localities in the above-mentioned provinces and in the suspension of all Bahá'í youth activities. It even led to the closing of Bahá'í schools, kindergartens, libraries and public reading-rooms, to the interception of all communication with foreign Bahá'í centers, to the confiscation of Bahá'í printing presses, books and documents, to the prohibition of all teaching activities, to the abrogation of the Bahá'í constitution, to the abolition of all national and local funds and to the ban placed on the attendance of non-believers at Bahá'í meetings.
In the middle of 1928 the law expropriating religious edifices was applied to the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of Ishqabad. The use of this edifice as a house of worship, however, was continued, under a five-year lease, which was renewed by the local authorities in 1933, for a similar period. In 1938 the situation in both Turkistan and the Caucasus rapidly deteriorated, leading to the imprisonment of over five hundred believers -- many of whom died -- as well as a number of women, and the confiscation of their property, followed by the exile of several prominent members of these communities to Siberia, the polar forests and other places in the vicinity of the Arctic Ocean, the subsequent deportation of most of the remnants of these communities to Persia, on account of their Persian nationality, and lastly, the complete expropriation of the Temple itself and its conversion into an art gallery.
In Germany, likewise, the rise and establishment of the Administrative Order of the Faith, to whose expansion and consolidation the German believers were distinctively and increasingly contributing, was soon followed by repressive measures, which, though less grievousPage 362
than the afflictions suffered by the Bahá'ís of Turkistan and the Caucasus, amounted to the virtual cessation, in the years immediately preceding the present conflict, of all organized Bahá'í activity throughout the length and breadth of that land. The public teaching of the Faith, with its unconcealed emphasis on peace and universality, and its repudiation of racialism, was officially forbidden; Bahá'í Assemblies and their committees were dissolved; the holding of Bahá'í conventions was interdicted; the Archives of the National Spiritual Assembly were seized; the summer school was abolished and the publication of all Bahá'í literature was suspended.
In Persia, moreover, apart from sporadic outbreaks of persecution in such places as Shiraz, Abadih, Ardibil, Isfahan, and in certain districts of Adhirbayjan and Khurasan -- outbreaks greatly reduced in number and violence, owing to the marked decline in the fortunes of the erstwhile powerful Shi'ah ecclesiastics -- the institutions of a newly-established and as yet unconsolidated Administrative Order were subjected by the civil authorities, in both the capital and the provinces, to restrictions designed to circumscribe their scope, to fetter their freedom and undermine their foundations.
The gradual and wholly unexpected emergence from obscurity of a firmly-welded national community, schooled in adversity and unbroken in spirit, with centers established in every province of that country, in spite of the successive waves of inhuman persecution which had, for three quarters of a century, swept over and had all but engulfed it; the determination of its members to diffuse the spirit and principles of their Faith, broadcast its literature, enforce its laws and ordinances, penalize those who would transgress them, maintain a steady intercourse with their fellow-believers in foreign lands, and erect the edifices and institutions of its Administrative Order, could not but arouse the apprehensions and the hostility of those placed in authority, who either misunderstood the aims of that community, or were bent upon stifling its life. The insistence of its members, while obedient in all matters of a purely administrative character to the civil statutes of their country, on adhering to the fundamental spiritual principles, precepts and laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, requiring them, among other things, to hold fast to truthfulness, not to dissimulate their faith, observe the ordinances prescribed for marriage and divorce, and suspend all manner of work on the Holy Days ordained by Him, brought them, sooner or later, into conflict with a regime which, owing to its formal recognition of Islam as the state religion of Persia, refused to extend any recognition to those whomPage 363
the official exponents of that religion had already condemned as heretics.
The closing of all schools belonging to the Bahá'í community in that country, as a direct consequence of the refusal of the representatives of that community to permit official Bahá'í institutions, owned and entirely controlled by them, to transgress the clearly revealed law requiring the suspension of work on Bahá'í Holy Days; the rejection of all Bahá'í marriage certificates and the refusal to register them at government License Bureaus; the ban placed on the printing and circulation of all Bahá'í literature, as well as on its entry into the country; the seizure in various centers of Bahá'í documents, books and relics; the closing, in some of the provinces of the Haziratu'l-Quds, and the confiscation in some localities of their furniture; the prohibition of all Bahá'í demonstrations, conferences and conventions; the strict censorship imposed on, and often the non-delivery of, communications between Bahá'í centers in Persia and between these centers and Bahá'í communities in foreign lands; the withholding of good-record certificates from loyal and law-abiding citizens on the ground of their avowed adherence to the Bahá'í Faith; the dismissal of Government employees, the demotion or discharge of army officers, the arrest, the interrogation, the imprisonment of, and the imposition of fines and other punishments upon, a number of believers who refused either to cast aside the moral obligation of adhering to the spiritual principles of their Faith, or to act in any manner that would conflict with its universal and non-political character -- all these may be regarded as the initial attempts made in the country whose soil had already been imbued with the blood of countless Bahá'í martyrs, to resist the rise, and frustrate the struggle for the emancipation, of a nascent Administrative Order, whose very roots have sucked their strength from such heroic sacrifice.Page 364
While the initial steps aiming at the erection of the framework of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh were being simultaneously undertaken by His followers in the East and in the West, a fierce attack was launched in an obscure village in Egypt on a handful of believers, who were trying to establish there one of the primary institutions of that Order -- an attack which, viewed in the perspective of history, will be acclaimed by future generations as a landmark not only in the Formative Period of the Faith but in the history of the first Bahá'í century. Indeed, the sequel to this assault may be said to have opened a new chapter in the evolution of the Faith itself, an evolution which, carrying it through the successive stages of repression, of emancipation, of recognition as an independent Revelation, and as a state religion, must lead to the establishment of the Bahá'í state and culminate in the emergence of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth.
Originating in a country which can rightly boast of being the acknowledged center of both the Arab and Muslim worlds; precipitated by the action, taken on their own initiative, by the ecclesiastical representatives of the largest communion in Islam; the direct outcome of a series of disturbances instigated by some of the members of that communion designed to suppress the activities of certain followers of the Faith who had held a clerical rank among them, this momentous development in the fortunes of a struggling community has directly contributed, to a considerable degree, to the consolidation and the enhancement of the prestige of the Administrative Order which that community had begun to erect. It will, moreover, as its repercussions are more widely spread to other Islamic countries, and its vast significance is more clearly apprehended by the adherents of both Christianity and Islam, hasten the termination of the period of transition through which the Faith, now in the formative stage of its growth, is passing.
It was in the village of Kawmu's-Sa'ayidih, in the district of Beba, of the province of Beni Suef in Upper Egypt, that, as a result of the religious fanaticism which the formation of a Bahá'í assembly hadPage 365
kindled in the breast of the headman of that village, and of the grave accusations made by him to both the District Police Officer and the Governor of the province -- accusations which aroused the Muhammadans to such a pitch of excitement as to cause them to perpetrate shameful acts against their victims -- that action was initiated by the notary of the village, in his capacity as a religious plaintiff authorized by the Ministry of Justice, against three Bahá'í residents of that village, demanding that their Muslim wives be divorced from them on the grounds that their husbands had abandoned Islam after their legal marriage as Muslims.
The Opinion and Judgment of the Appellate religious court of Beba, delivered on May 10, 1925, subsequently sanctioned by the highest ecclesiastical authorities in Cairo and upheld by them as final, printed and circulated by the Muslim authorities themselves, annulled the marriages contracted by the three Bahá'í defendants and condemned the mass heretics for having violated the laws and ordinances of Islam. It even went so far as to make the positive, the startling and indeed the historic assertion that the Faith embraced by these heretics is to be regarded as a distinct religion, wholly independent of the religious systems that have preceded it -- an assertion which hitherto the enemies of the Faith, whether in the East or in the West, had either disputed or deliberately ignored.
Having expounded the fundamental tenets and ordinances of Islam, and given a detailed exposition of the Bahá'í teachings, supported by various quotations from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, from the writings of Abdu'l-Bahá and of Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, with special reference to certain Bahá'í laws, and demonstrated that the defendants had, in the light of these statements, actually abjured the Faith of Muhammad, his formal verdict declares in the most unequivocal terms: "The Bahá'í Faith is a new religion, entirely independent, with beliefs, principles and laws of its own, which differ from, and are utterly in conflict with, the beliefs, principles and laws of Islam. No Baha'i, therefore, can be regarded a Muslim or vice-versa, even as no Buddhist, Brahmin, or Christian can be regarded a Muslim or vice-versa." Ordering the dissolution of the contracts of marriage of the parties on trial, and the "separation" of the husbands from their wives, this official and memorable pronouncement concludes with the following words: "If any one of them (husbands) repents, believes in, and acknowledges whatsoever ... Muhammad, the Apostle of God ... has brought from God ... and returns to the august Faith of Islam ... and testifies that ... Muhammad ... is the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers,Page 366
that no religion will succeed His religion, that no law will abrogate His law, that the Qur'an is the last of the Books of God and His last Revelation to His Prophets and His Messengers ... he shall be accepted and shall be entitled to renew his marriage contract..."
This declaration of portentous significance, which was supported by incontrovertible proofs adduced by the avowed enemies of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh themselves, which was made in a country that aspires to the headship of Islam through the restoration of the Caliphate, and which has received the sanction of the highest ecclesiastical authorities in that country, this official testimony which the leaders of Shi'ah Islam, in both Persia and Iraq, have, through a century, sedulously avoided voicing, and which, once and for all, silences those detractors, including Christian ecclesiastics in the West, who have in the past stigmatized that Faith as a cult, as a Babi sect and as an offshoot of Islam or represented it as a synthesis of religions -- such a declaration was acclaimed by all Bahá'í communities in the East and in the West as the first Charter of the emancipation of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh from the fetters of Islamic orthodoxy, the first historic step taken, not by its adherents as might have been expected, but by its adversaries on the road leading to its ultimate and world-wide recognition.
Such a verdict, fraught with incalculable possibilities, was immediately recognized as a powerful challenge which the builders of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh were not slow to face and accept. It imposed upon them a sacred obligation which they felt ready to discharge. Designed by its authors to deprive their adversaries of access to Muslim courts, and thereby place them in a perplexing and embarrassing situation, it became a lever which the Egyptian Bahá'í community, followed later by its sister-communities, readily utilized for the purpose of asserting the independence of its Faith and of seeking for it the recognition of its government. Translated into several languages, circulated among Bahá'í communities in East and West, it gradually paved the way for the initiation of negotiations between the elected representatives of these communities and the civil authorities in Egypt, in the Holy Land, in Persia and even in the United States of America, for the purpose of securing the official recognition by these authorities of the Faith as an independent religion.
In Egypt it was the signal for the adoption of a series of measures which have in their cumulative effect greatly facilitated the extension of such a recognition by a government which is still formally associated with the religion of Islam, and which suffers its laws and regulationsPage 367
to be shaped in a great measure by the views and pronouncements of its ecclesiastical leaders. The inflexible determination of the Egyptian believers not to deviate a hair's breadth from the tenets of their Faith, by avoiding all dealings with any Muslim ecclesiastical court in that country and by refusing any ecclesiastical post which might be offered them; the codification and publication of the fundamental laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas regarding matters of personal status, such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and burial, and the presentation of these laws to the Egyptian Cabinet; the issuance of marriage and divorce certificates by the Egyptian National Spiritual Assembly; the assumption by that Assembly of all the duties and responsibilities connected with the conduct of Bahá'í marriages and divorces, as well as with the burial of the dead; the observance by all members of that community of the nine Holy Days on which work, as prescribed in the Bahá'í teachings, must be completely suspended; the presentation of a petition addressed by the national elected representatives of that community to the Egyptian Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Justice (supported by a similar communication addressed by the American National Spiritual Assembly to the Egyptian Government), enclosing a copy of the judgment of the Court, and of their national Bahá'í constitution and by-laws, requesting them to recognize their Assembly as a body qualified to exercise the functions of an independent court and empowered to apply, in all matters affecting their personal status, the laws and ordinances revealed by the Author of their Faith -- these stand out as the initial consequences of a historic pronouncement that must eventually lead to the establishment of that Faith on a basis of absolute equality with its sister religions in that land.
A corollary to this epoch-making declaration, and a direct consequence of the intermittent disturbances instigated in Port Said and Isma'iliyyih by a fanatical populace in connection with the burial of some of the members of the Bahá'í community, was the official and no less remarkable fatva (judgment) issued, at the request of the Ministry of Justice, by the Grand Mufti of Egypt. This, soon after its pronouncement, was published in the Egyptian press and contributed to fortify further the independent status of the Faith. It followed upon the riots which broke out with exceptional fury in Isma'iliyyih, when angry crowds surrounded the funeral cortege of Muhammad Sulayman, a prominent Bahá'í resident of that town, creating such an uproar that the police had to intervene, and having rescued the body and brought it back to the home of the deceased, they were forced toPage 368
carry it without escort, at night, to the edge of the desert and inter it in the wilderness.
This judgment was passed as a result of the inquiry addressed in writing, on January 24, 1939, by the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Justice, enclosing a copy of the compilation of Bahá'í laws related to matters of personal status published by the Egyptian Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly, and asking for a pronouncement by the Mufti regarding the petition addressed by that Assembly to the Egyptian Government for the allocation of four plots to serve as cemeteries for the Bahá'í communities of Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said and Isma'iliyyih. "We are," wrote the Mufti in his reply of March 11, 1939, to the communication addressed to him by the Ministry of Justice, "in receipt of your letter ... dated February 21, 1939, with its enclosures ... inquiring whether or not it would be lawful to bury the Bahá'í dead in Muslim cemeteries. We hereby declare that this Community is not to be regarded as Muslim, as shown by the beliefs which it professes. The perusal of what they term 'The Bahá'í Laws affecting Matters of Personal Status,' accompanying the papers, is deemed sufficient evidence. Whoever among its members had formerly been a Muslim has, by virtue of his belief in the pretensions of this community, renounced Islam, and is regarded as beyond its pale, and is subject to the laws governing apostasy as established in the right Faith of Islam. This community not being Muslim, it would be unlawful to bury its dead in Muslim cemeteries, be they originally Muslims or otherwise..."
It was in consequence of this final, this clearly-worded and authoritative sentence by the highest exponent of Islamic Law in Egypt, and after prolonged negotiations, resulting at first in the allocation to the Cairo Bahá'í community of a cemetery plot forming a part of that set aside for free thinkers, residing in that city, that the Egyptian government consented to grant to that community, as well as to the Bahá'ís of Isma'iliyyih, two tracts of land to serve as burial grounds for their dead -- an act of historic significance which was greatly welcomed by the members of sore-pressed and long-suffering communities, and which has served to demonstrate still further the independent character of their Faith and enlarge the sphere of the jurisdiction of its representative institutions.
It was to the first of these two officially designated Bahá'í cemeteries, following the decision of the Egyptian Bahá'í National Assembly aided by its sister-Assembly in Persia, that the remains of the illustrious Mirza Abu'l-Fadl were transferred and accordedPage 369
a sepulture worthy of his high position, thereby inaugurating, in a befitting manner, the first official Bahá'í institution of its kind established in the East. This achievement was, soon after, enhanced by the exhumation from a Christian cemetery in Cairo of the body of that far-famed mother teacher of the West, Mrs. E. Getsinger, and its interment, through the assistance extended by the American Bahá'í National Assembly and the Department of State in Washington, in a spot in the heart of that cemetery and adjoining the resting-place of that distinguished author and champion of the Faith.
In the Holy Land, where a Bahá'í cemetery had, before these pronouncements, been established during Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry, the historic decision to bury the Bahá'í dead facing the Qiblih in Akka was taken -- a measure whose significance was heightened by the resolution to cease having recourse, as had been previously the case, to any Muhammadan court in all matters affecting marriage and divorce, and to carry out, in their entirety and without any concealment whatever, the rites prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh for the preparation and burial of the dead. This was soon after followed by the presentation of a formal petition addressed by the representatives of the local Bahá'í community of Haifa, dated May 4, 1929, to the Palestine Authorities, requesting them that, pending the adoption of a uniform civil law of personal status applicable to all residents of the country irrespective of their religious beliefs, the community be officially recognized by them and be granted "full powers to administer its own affairs now enjoyed by other religious communities in Palestine."
The acceptance of this petition -- an act of tremendous significance and wholly unprecedented in the history of the Faith in any country -- according official recognition by the civil authorities to marriage certificates issued by the representatives of the local community, the validity of which the official representative of the Persian Government in Palestine has tacitly recognized, was followed by a series of decisions exempting from government tax all properties and institutions regarded by the Bahá'í community as holy sites, or dedicated to the Tombs of its Founders at its world center. Moreover, through these decisions, all articles serving as ornaments or furniture for the Bahá'í shrines were exempted from customs duties, and the branches of both the American and Indian Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies were enabled to function as "religious societies," in accordance with the laws of the country, and to hold and administer property as agents of these Assemblies.
In Persia, where a far larger community, already numericallyPage 370
superior to the Christian, the Jewish and the Zoroastrian minorities living in that country, had, notwithstanding the traditionally hostile attitude of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, succeeded in rearing the structure of its administrative institutions, the reaction to so momentous a declaration was such as to inspire its members and induce them to exploit, in the fullest measure possible, the enormous advantages which this wholly unexpected testimonial had conferred upon them. Having survived the fiery ordeals to which the cruel, the arrogant and implacable leaders of an all-powerful priesthood, now grievously humiliated, had subjected it, a triumphant community, just emerging from obscurity, was determined, more than ever before, to press, within the limits prescribed for it by its Founders, its claim to be regarded as an independent religious entity, and to safeguard, by all available means, its integrity, the solidarity of its members and the solidity of its elective institutions. It could no longer, now that its declared adversaries had, in such a country, in such a language, and on so important an issue, made so emphatic and sweeping a pronouncement, and torn asunder the veil that had for so long been drawn over some of the distinguishing verities lying at the core of its doctrine, keep silent or tolerate without any protest the imposition of restrictions calculated to circumscribe its powers, stifle its community life and deny it its right to be placed on a footing of unqualified equality with other religious communities in that land.
Inflexibly resolved to be classified no longer as Muslim, Jew, Christian or Zoroastrian, the members of this community determined, as a first step, to adopt such measures as would vindicate beyond challenge the distinctive position claimed for their religion by its avowed enemies. Mindful of their clear, their sacred and inescapable duty to obey unreservedly, in all matters of a purely administrative character, the laws of their country, but firmly determined to assert and demonstrate, through every legitimate means at their disposal, the independent character of their Faith, they formulated a policy and embarked in undertakings designed to carry them a stage further towards the goal they had set themselves to attain.
The steadfast resolution not to dissemble their faith, whatever the sacrifices it might entail; the uncompromising position that they would not refer any matters affecting their personal status to any Muslim, Christian, Rabbinical or Zoroastrian court; the refusal to affiliate with any organization, or accept any ecclesiastical post associated with any of the recognized religions in their country; the universal observance of the laws prescribed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas relating to obligatoryPage 371
prayers, fasting, marriage, divorce, inheritance, burial of the dead, and the use of opium and alcoholic beverages; the issue and circulation of certificates of birth, death, marriage and divorce, at the direction and under the seal of recognized Bahá'í Assemblies; the translation into Persian of "The Bahá'í Laws affecting Matters of Personal Status," first published by the Egyptian Bahá'í National Assembly; the cessation of work on all Bahá'í Holy Days; the establishment of Bahá'í cemeteries in the capital as well as in the provinces, designed to provide a common burial ground for all ranks of the faithful, whatever their religious extraction; the insistence that they no longer be registered as Muslim, Christian, Jew or Zoroastrian on identity cards, marriage certificates, passports and other official documents; the emphasis placed on the institution of the Nineteen Day Feast, as established by Bahá'u'lláh in His Most Holy Book; the imposition of sanctions by Bahá'í elective Assemblies, now assuming the duties and functions of religious courts, on recalcitrant members of the community by denying them the right to vote and of membership in these Assemblies and their committees -- all these are to be associated with the first stirrings of a community that had erected the fabric of its Administrative Order, and was now, under the propelling influence of the historic judicial sentence passed in Egypt, intent upon obtaining, not by force but through persuasion, the recognition by the civil authorities of the status to which its ecclesiastical adversaries had so emphatically borne witness.
That its initial attempt should have met with partial success, that it should have aroused at times the suspicion of the ruling authorities, that it should have been grossly misrepresented by its vigilant enemies, is not a matter for surprise. It was successful in certain respects in its negotiations with the civil authorities, as in obtaining the government decree removing all references to religious affiliation in passports issued to Persian subjects, and in the tacit permission granted in certain localities that its members should not fill in the religious columns in certain state documents, but should register with their own Assemblies their marriage, their divorce, their birth and their death certificates, and should conduct their funerals according to their religious rites. In other respects, however, it has been subjected to grave disabilities: its schools, founded, owned and controlled exclusively by itself, were forcibly closed because they refused to remain open on Bahá'í holy days; its members, both men and women, were prosecuted; those who held army or civil service appointments were in some cases dismissed; aPage 372
ban was placed on the import, on the printing and circulation of its literature; and all Bahá'í public gatherings were proscribed.
To all administrative regulations which the civil authorities have issued from time to time, or will issue in the future in that land, as in all other countries, the Bahá'í community, faithful to its sacred obligations towards its government, and conscious of its civic duties, has yielded, and will continue to yield implicit obedience. Its immediate closing of its schools in Persia is a proof of this. To such orders, however, as are tantamount to a recantation of their faith by its members, or constitute an act of disloyalty to its spiritual, its basic and God-given principles and precepts, it will stubbornly refuse to bow, preferring imprisonment, deportation and all manner of persecution, including death -- as already suffered by the twenty thousand martyrs that have laid down their lives in the path of its Founders -- rather than follow the dictates of a temporal authority requiring it to renounce its allegiance to its cause.
"If you cut us in pieces, men, women and children alike, in the entire district of Abadih," was the memorable message sent by the fearless descendants of some of those martyrs in that turbulent center to the Governor of Fars, who had intended to coerce them into declaring themselves as Muslims, "we will never submit to your wishes" -- a message which, as soon as it was delivered to that defiant governor, induced him to desist from pressing the matter any further.
In the United States of America, the Bahá'í community, having already set an inspiring example, by erecting and perfecting the machinery of its Administrative Order, was alive to the far-reaching implications of the sentence passed by the Muslim court in Egypt, and to the significance of the reaction it had produced in the Holy Land, and was stimulated by the courageous persistence demonstrated by its sister-community in Persia. It determined to supplement its notable achievements with further acts designed to throw into sharper relief the status achieved by the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in the North American continent. It was numerically smaller than the community of the Persian believers. Owing to the multiplicity of laws governing the states within the Union, it was faced, in matters affecting the personal status of its members, with a situation radically different from that confronting the believers in the East, and much more complex. But conscious of its responsibility to lend, once again, a powerful impetus to the unfoldment of a divinely appointed Order, it boldly undertook to initiate such measures as would accentuate the independent character of a Revelation it had already so nobly championed.Page 373
The recognition of its National Spiritual Assembly by the Federal authorities as a religious body entitled to hold as trustees properties dedicated to the interests of the Faith; the establishment of Bahá'í endowments and the exemption obtained for them from the civil authorities as properties owned by, and administered solely for the benefit of, a purely religious community, were now to be supplemented by decisions and measures designed to give further prominence to the nature of the ties uniting its members. The special stress laid on some of the fundamental laws contained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas regarding daily obligatory prayers; the observance of the fast, the consent of the parents as a prerequisite of marriage; the one-year separation between husband and wife as an indispensable condition of divorce; abstinence from all alcoholic drinks; the emphasis placed on the institution of the Nineteen Day Feast as ordained by Bahá'u'lláh in that same Book; the discontinuation of membership in, and affiliation with, all ecclesiastical organizations, and the refusal to accept any ecclesiastical post -- these have served to forcibly underline the distinctive character of the Bahá'í Fellowship, and to dissociate it, in the eyes of the public, from the rituals, the ceremonials and man-made institutions identified with the religious systems of the past.
Of particular and historic importance has been the application made by the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Chicago -- the first center established in the North American continent, the first to be incorporated among its sister-Assemblies and the first to take the initiative in paving the way for the erection of a Bahá'í Temple in the West -- to the civil authorities in the state of Illinois for civil recognition of the right to conduct legal marriages in accordance with the ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and to file marriage certificates that have previously received the official sanction of that Assembly. The acceptance of this petition by the authorities, necessitating an amendment of the by-laws of all local Assemblies to enable them to conduct Bahá'í legal marriages, and empowering the Chairman or secretary of the Chicago Assembly to represent that body in the conduct of all Bahá'í marriages; the issuance, on September 22, 1939, of the first Bahá'í Marriage License by the State of Illinois, authorizing the aforementioned Assembly to solemnize Bahá'í marriages and issue Bahá'í marriage certificates; the successful measures taken subsequently by Assemblies in other states of the Union, such as New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Ohio, to procure for themselves similar privileges, have, moreover, contributed their share in giving added prominence to the independent religious status of the Faith. To these mustPage 374
be added a similar and no less significant recognition extended, since the outbreak of the present conflict, by the United States War Department -- as evidenced by the communication addressed to the American Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly by the Quartermaster General of that Department, on August 14, 1942 -- approving the use of the symbol of the Greatest Name on stones marking the graves of Bahá'ís killed in the war and buried in military or private cemeteries, distinguishing thereby these graves from those bearing the Latin Cross or the Star of David assigned to those belonging to the Christian and Jewish Faiths respectively.
Nor should mention be omitted of the equally successful application made by the American Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly to the Office of Price Administration in Washington, D.C., asking that the chairmen and secretaries of Bahá'í local Assemblies should, in their capacity as officers conducting religious meetings, and authorized, in certain states, to perform marriage services, be eligible for preferred mileage under the provisions of the Preferred Mileage Section of the Gasoline Regulations, for the purpose of meeting the religious needs of the localities they serve.
Nor have the Bahá'í communities in other countries such as India, Iraq, Great Britain and Australia, been slow to either appreciate the advantages derived from the publication of this historic verdict, or to exploit, each according to its capacity and within the limits imposed upon it by prevailing circumstances, the opportunities afforded by such public testimonial for a further demonstration on their part of the independent character of the Faith whose administrative structure they had already erected. Through the enforcement, to whatever extent deemed practicable, of the laws ordained in their Most Holy Book; through the severance of all ties of affiliation with, and membership in, ecclesiastical institutions of whatever denomination; through the formulation of a policy initiated for the sole purpose of giving further publicity to this mighty issue, marking a great turning-point in the evolution of the Faith, and of facilitating its ultimate settlement, these communities, and indeed all organized Bahá'í bodies, whether in the East or in the West, however isolated their position or immature their state of development, have, conscious of their solidarity and well aware of the glorious prospects opening before them, arisen to proclaim with one voice the independent character of the religion of Bahá'u'lláh and to pave the way for its emancipation from whatever fetters, be they ecclesiastical or otherwise, might hinder or delay its ultimate and world-wide recognition.Page 375
To the status already achieved by their Faith, largely through their own unaided efforts and accomplishments, tributes have been paid by observers in various walks of life, whose testimony they welcome and regard as added incentive to action in their steep and laborious ascent towards the heights which they must eventually capture.
"Palestine," is the testimony of Prof. Norman Bentwitch, a former Attorney-General of the Palestine Government, "may indeed be now regarded as the land not of three but of four Faiths, because the Bahá'í creed, which has its center of faith and pilgrimage in Akka and Haifa, is attaining to the character of a world religion. So far as its influence goes in the land, it is a factor making for international and inter-religious understanding." "In 1920," is the declaration made in his testament by the distinguished Swiss scientist and psychiatrist, Dr. Auguste Forel, "I learned at Karlsruhe of the supraconfessional world religion of the Baha'is, founded in the Orient seventy years ago by a Persian, Bahá'u'lláh. This is the real religion of 'Social Welfare' without dogmas or priests, binding together all men of this small terrestrial globe of ours. I have become a Baha'i. May this religion live and prosper for the good of humanity! This is my most ardent desire." "There is bound to be a world state, a universal language, and a universal religion," he, moreover has stated, "The Bahá'í Movement for the oneness of mankind is, in my estimation, the greatest movement today working for universal peace and brotherhood." "A religion," is yet another testimony, from the pen of the late Queen Marie of Rumania, "which links all creeds ... a religion based upon the inner spirit of God... It teaches that all hatreds, intrigues, suspicions, evil words, all aggressive patriotism even, are outside the one essential law of God, and that special beliefs are but surface things whereas the heart that beats with Divine love knows no tribe nor race."Page 376
While the fabric of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh gradually arose, and while through the influence of unforeseen forces the independence of the Faith was more and more definitely acknowledged by its enemies and demonstrated by its friends, another development, no less pregnant with consequences, was at the same time being set in motion. The purpose of this was to extend the borders of the Faith, increasing the number of its declared supporters and of its administrative centers, and to give a new and ever-growing impetus to the enriching, the expanding, the diversifying of its literature, and to the task of disseminating it farther and farther afield. Experience indeed proved that the very pattern of the Administrative Order, apart from other distinctive features, definitely encouraged efficiency and expedition in this work of teaching, and its builders found their zeal continually quickened and their missionary ardor heightened as the Faith moved forward to an ever fuller emancipation.
Nor were they unmindful of the exhortations, the appeals and the promises of the Founders of their Faith, Who, for three quarters of a century, had, each in His own way and within the limits circumscribing His activities, labored so heroically to noise abroad the fame of the Cause Whose destiny an almighty Providence had commissioned them to shape.
The Herald of their Faith had commanded the sovereigns of the earth themselves to arise and teach His Cause, writing in the Qayyumu'l-Asma': "O concourse of kings! Deliver with truth and in all haste the verses sent down by Us to the peoples of Turkey and of India, and beyond them ... to lands in both the East and the West." "Issue forth from your cities, O peoples of the West," He, in that same Book, had moreover written, "to aid God." "We behold you from Our Most Glorious Horizon," Bahá'u'lláh had thus addressed His followers in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, "and will assist whosoever will arise to aid My Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high, and a cohort of the angels, who are nigh unto Me." "...Teach ye the Cause of God, O people of Baha!" He, furthermore, had written, "for God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His message, andPage 377
regardeth it as the most meritorious of all deeds." "Should a man all alone," He had clearly affirmed, "arise in the name of Baha and put on the armor of His love, him will the Almighty cause to be victorious, though the forces of earth and heaven be arrayed against him." "Should any one arise for the triumph of Our Cause," He moreover had declared, "him will God render victorious though tens of thousands of enemies be leagued against him." And again: "Center your energies in the propagation of the Faith of God. Whoso is worthy of so high a calling, let him arise and promote it. Whoso is unable, it is his duty to appoint him who will, in his stead, proclaim this Revelation..." "They that have forsaken their country," is His own promise, "for the purpose of teaching Our Cause -- these shall the Faithful Spirit strengthen through its power... Such a service is indeed the prince of all goodly deeds, and the ornament of every goodly act." "In these days," Abdu'l-Bahá had written in His Will, "the most important of all things is the guidance of the nations and peoples of the world. Teaching the Cause is of the utmost importance, for it is the head corner-stone of the foundation itself." "The disciples of Christ," He had declared in that same Document, "forgot themselves and all earthly things, forsook all their cares and belongings, purged themselves of self and passion, and, with absolute detachment, scattered far and wide, and engaged in guiding aright the peoples of the world, till at last they made the world another world, illumined the earth, and to their last hour proved self-sacrificing in the path of that Beloved One of God. Finally, in various lands they suffered martyrdom. Let men of action follow in their footsteps." "When the hour cometh," He had solemnly stated in that same Will, "that this wronged and broken-winged bird will have taken its flight unto the celestial concourse ... it is incumbent upon ... the friends and loved ones, one and all, to bestir themselves and arise, with heart and soul, and in one accord ... to teach His Cause and promote His Faith. It behoveth them not to rest for a moment... They must disperse themselves in every land ... and travel throughout all regions. Bestirred, without rest, and steadfast to the end, they must raise in every land the cry of Ya Baha'u'l-Abha (O Thou the Glory of Glories) ... that throughout the East and the West a vast concourse may gather under the shadow of the Word of God, that the sweet savors of holiness may be wafted, that men's faces may be illumined, that their hearts may be filled with the Divine Spirit and their souls become heavenly."
Obedient to these repeated injunctions, mindful of these glowing promises, conscious of the sublimity of their calling, spurred on by thePage 378
example which Abdu'l-Bahá Himself had set, undismayed by His sudden removal from their midst, undaunted by the attacks launched by their adversaries from within and from without, His followers in both the East and in the West arose, in the full strength of their solidarity, to promote, more vigorously than ever before, the international expansion of their Faith, an expansion which was now to assume such proportions as to deserve to be recognized as one of the most significant developments in the history of the first Bahá'í century.
Launched in every continent of the globe, at first intermittent, haphazard, and unorganized, and later, as a result of the emergence of a slowly developing Administrative Order, systematically conducted, centrally directed and efficiently prosecuted, the teaching enterprises which were undertaken by the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in many lands, but conspicuously in America, and which were pursued by members of all ages and of both sexes, by neophytes and by veterans, by itinerant teachers and by settlers, constitute, by virtue of their range and the blessings which have flowed from them, a shining episode that yields place to none except those associated with the exploits which have immortalized the early years of the primitive age of the Bahá'í Dispensation.
The light of the Faith which during the nine years of the Bábi Dispensation had irradiated Persia, and been reflected on the adjoining territory of Iraq; which in the course of Bahá'u'lláh's thirty-nine-year ministry had shed its splendor upon India, Egypt, Turkey, the Caucasus, Turkistan, the Sudan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Burma, and which had subsequently, through the impulse of a divinely-instituted Covenant, traveled to the United States of America, Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy, Holland, Hungary, Switzerland, Arabia, Tunisia, China, Japan, the Hawaiian Islands, South Africa, Brazil and Australia, was now to be carried to, and illuminate, ere the termination of the first Bahá'í century, no less than thirty-four independent nations, as well as several dependencies situated in the American, the Asiatic and African continents, in the Persian Gulf, and in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. In Norway, in Sweden, in Denmark, in Belgium, in Finland, in Ireland, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, in Rumania, in Yugoslavia, in Bulgaria, in Albania, in Afghanistan, in Abyssinia, in New Zealand and in nineteen Latin American Republics ensigns of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh have been raised since Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing, and the structural basis of the Administrative Order of His Faith, in many of them, already established. In several dependencies, moreover, in both the East and thePage 379
West, including Alaska, Iceland, Jamaica, Porto Rico, the island of Solano in the Philippines, Java, Tasmania, the islands of Bahrayn and of Tahiti, Baluchistan, South Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo, the bearers of the new born Gospel have established their residence, and are bending every effort to lay an impregnable basis for its institutions.
Through lectures and conferences, through the press and radio, through the organization of study classes and fire-side gatherings, through participation in the activities of societies, institutes and clubs animated by ideals akin to the principles of the Faith, through the dissemination of Bahá'í literature, through various exhibits, through the establishment of teacher training classes, through contact with statesmen, scholars, publicists, philanthropists and other leaders of public thought -- most of which have been carried out through the resourcefulness of the members of the American Bahá'í community, who have assumed direct responsibility for the spiritual conquest of the vast majority of these countries and dependencies -- above all through the inflexible resolution and unswerving fidelity of pioneers who, whether as visiting teachers or as residents, have participated in these crusades, have these signal victories been achieved during the closing decades of the first Bahá'í century.
Nor should reference be omitted to the international teaching activities of the western followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and particularly the members of the stalwart American Bahá'í community, who, seizing every opportunity that presented itself to them, have either through example, precept or the circulation of literature carried the Faith to virgin fields, scattering the seeds which must eventually germinate and yield a harvest as notable as those already garnered in the aforementioned countries. Through such efforts as these the breezes of God's vitalizing Revelation have been blown upon the uttermost corners of the earth, bearing the germ of a new spiritual life to such distant climes and inhospitable regions as Lapland; the Island of Spitzbergen, the northernmost settlement in the world; Hammerfest, in Norway, and Magellanes, in the extremity of Chile -- the most northerly and southerly cities of the globe respectively; Pago Pago and Fiji, in the Pacific Ocean; Chichen Itza, in the province of Yucatan; the Bahama Islands, Trinidad and Barbados in the West Indies; the Island of Bali and British North Borneo in the East Indies; Patagonia; British Guiana; Seychelles Islands; New Guinea and Ceylon.
Nor can we fail to notice the special endeavors that have been exerted by individuals as well as Assemblies for the purpose of establishingPage 380
contact with minority groups and races in various parts of the world, such as the Jews and Negroes in the United States of America, the Eskimos in Alaska, the Patagonian Indians in Argentina, the Mexican Indians in Mexico, the Inca Indians in Peru, the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, the Oneida Indians in Wisconsin, the Mayans in Yucatan, the Lapps in Northern Scandinavia, and the Maoris in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Of special and valuable assistance has been the institution of an international Bahá'í Bureau in Geneva, a center designed primarily to facilitate the expansion of the teaching activities of the Faith in the European continent, which, as an auxiliary to the world administrative center in the Holy Land, has maintained contact with Bahá'í communities in the East and in the West. Serving as a bureau of information on the Faith, as well as a distributing center for its literature, it has, through its free reading room and lending library, through the hospitality extended to itinerant teachers and visiting believers, and through its contact with various societies, contributed, in no small measure, to the consolidation of the teaching enterprises undertaken by individuals as well as Bahá'í National Assemblies.
Through these teaching activities, some initiated by individual believers, others conducted through plans launched by organized Assemblies, the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh which, in His lifetime, had included within its ranks Persians, Arabs, Turks, Russians, Kurds, Indians, Burmese and Negroes, and was later, in the days of Abdu'l-Bahá, reinforced by the inclusion of American, British, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Armenian converts, could now boast of having enrolled amongst its avowed supporters representatives of such widely dispersed ethnic groups and nationalities as Hungarians, Netherlanders, Irishmen, Scandinavians, Sudanese, Czechs, Bulgarians, Finns, Ethiopians, Albanians, Poles, Eskimos, American Indians, Yugoslavians, Latin Americans and Maoris.
So notable an enlargement of the limits of the Faith, so striking an increase in the diversity of the elements included within its pale, was accompanied by an enormous extension in the volume and the circulation of its literature, an extension that sharply contrasted with those initial measures undertaken for the publication of the few editions of Bahá'u'lláh's writing issued during the concluding years of His ministry. The range of Bahá'í literature, confined during half a century, in the days of the Báb and of Bahá'u'lláh, to the two languages in which their teachings were originally revealed, and subsequently extended, in the lifetime of Abdu'l-Bahá, to include editionsPage 381
published in the English, the French, the German, the Turkish, the Russian and Burmese languages, was steadily enlarged after His passing, through a vast multiplication in the number of books, treatises, pamphlets and leaflets, printed and circulated in no less than twenty-nine additional languages. In Spanish and in Portuguese; in the three Scandinavian languages, in Finnish and in Icelandic; in Dutch, Italian, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Rumanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek and Albanian; in Hebrew and in Esperanto, in Armenian, in Kurdish and in Amharic; in Chinese and in Japanese; as well as in five Indian languages, namely Urdu, Gujrati, Bengali, Hindi, and Sindhi, books, mostly through the initiative of individual Baha'is, and partly through the intermediary of Bahá'í assemblies, were published, widely distributed, and placed in private as well as public libraries in both the East and the West. The literature of the Faith, moreover, is being translated at present into Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Tamil, Mahratti, Pushtoo, Telegu, Kinarese, Singhalese, Malyalan, Oriya, Punjabi and Rajasthani.
No less remarkable has been the range of the literature produced and placed at the disposal of the general public in every continent of the globe, and carried by resolute and indefatigable pioneers to the furthermost ends of the earth, an enterprise in which the members of the American Bahá'í community have again distinguished themselves. The publication of an English edition comprising selected passages from the more important and hitherto untranslated writings of Bahá'u'lláh, as well as of an English version of His "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf," and of a compilation, in the same language, of Prayers and Meditations revealed by His pen; the translation and publication of His "Hidden Words" in eight, of His "Kitáb-i-Iqan" in seven, and of Abdu'l-Bahá'í "Some Answered Questions" in six, languages; the compilation of the third volume of Abdu'l-Bahá'í Tablets translated into English; the publication of books and treatises related to the principles of Bahá'í belief and to the origin and development of the Administrative Order of the Faith; of an English translation of the Narrative of the early days of the Bahá'í Revelation, written by the chronicler and poet, Nabil-i-Zarandi, subsequently published in Arabic and translated into German and Esperanto; of commentaries and of expositions of the Bahá'í teachings, of administrative institutions and of kindred subjects, such as world federation, race unity and comparative religion by western authors and by former ministers of the Church -- all these attest the diversified character of Bahá'í publications, so closely paralleled by their extensive dissemination over the surface ofPage 382
the globe. Moreover, the printing of documents related to the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, of books and pamphlets dealing with Biblical prophecies, of revised editions of some of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, of Abdu'l-Bahá and of several Bahá'í authors, of guides and study outlines for a wide variety of Bahá'í books and subjects, of lessons in Bahá'í Administration, of indexes to Bahá'í books and periodicals, of anniversary cards and of calendars, of poems, songs, plays and pageants, of study outlines and a prayer-book for the training of Bahá'í children, and of news letters, bulletins and periodicals issued in English, Persian, German, Esperanto, Arabic, French, Urdu, Burmese and Portuguese has contributed to swell the output and increase the diversity of Bahá'í publications.
Of particular value and significance has been the production, over a period of many years, of successive volumes of biennial international record of Bahá'í activity, profusely illustrated, fully documented, and comprising among other things a statement on the aims and purposes of the Faith and its Administrative Order, selections from its scriptures, a survey of its activities, a list of its centers in five continents, a bibliography of its literature, tributes paid to its ideals and achievements by prominent men and women in East and West, and articles dealing with its relation to present-day problems.
Nor would any survey of the Bahá'í literature produced during the concluding decades of the first Bahá'í century be complete without special reference being made to the publication of, and the far-reaching influence exerted by, that splendid, authoritative and comprehensive introduction to Bahá'í history and teachings, penned by that pure-hearted and immortal promoter of the Faith, J. E. Esslemont, which has already been printed in no less than thirty-seven languages, and is being translated into thirteen additional languages, whose English version has already run into tens of thousands, which has been reprinted no less than nine times in the United States of America, whose Esperanto, Japanese and English versions have been transcribed into Braille, and to which royalty has paid its tribute, characterizing it as "a glorious book of love and goodness, strength and beauty," commending it to all, and affirming that "no man could fail to be better because of this Book."
Deserving special mention, moreover, is the establishment by the British National Spiritual Assembly of a Publishing Trust, registered as "The Bahá'í Publishing Co." and acting as a publisher and wholesale distributor of Bahá'í literature throughout the British Isles; the compilation by various Bahá'í Assemblies throughout the East of no lessPage 383
than forty volumes in manuscript of the authenticated and unpublished writings of the Báb, of Bahá'u'lláh and of Abdu'l-Bahá; the translation into English of the Appendix to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, entitled "Questions and Answers," as well as the publication in Arabic and Persian by the Egyptian and Indian Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies respectively of the Outline of Bahá'í Laws on Matters of Personal Status, and of a brief outline by the latter Assembly of the laws relating to the burial of the dead; and the translation of a pamphlet into Maori undertaken by a Maori Bahá'í in New Zealand. Reference should also be made to the collection and publication by the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Tihran of a considerable number of the addresses delivered by Abdu'l-Bahá in the course of His Western tours; to the preparation of a detailed history of the Faith in Persian; to the printing of Bahá'í certificates of marriage and divorce, in both Persian and Arabic, by a number of National Spiritual Assemblies in the East; to the issuance of birth and death certificates by the Persian Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly; to the preparation of forms of bequest available to believers wishing to make a legacy to the Faith; to the compilation of a considerable number of the unpublished Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá by the American Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly; to the translation into Esperanto, undertaken by the daughter of the famous Zamenhof, herself a convert to the Faith, of several Bahá'í books, including some of the more important writings of Bahá'u'lláh and of Abdu'l-Bahá; to the translation of a Bahá'í booklet into Serbian by Prof. Bogdan Popovitch, one of the most eminent scholars attached to the University of Belgrade, and to the offer spontaneously made by Princess Ileana of Rumania (now Arch-Duchess Anton of Austria) to render into her own native language a Bahá'í pamphlet written in English, and subsequently distributed in her native country.
The progress made in connection with the transcription of the Bahá'í writings into Braille, should also be noted -- a transcription which already includes such works as the English versions of the "Kitáb-i-Iqan," of the "Hidden Words," of the "Seven Valleys," of the "Ishraqat," of the "Suriy-i-Haykal," of the "Words of Wisdom," of the "Prayers and Meditations of Bahá'u'lláh," of Abdu'l-Bahá'í "Some Answered Questions," of the "Promulgation of Universal Peace," of the "Wisdom of Abdu'l-Bahá," of "The Goal of a New World Order," as well as of the English (two editions), the Esperanto and the Japanese versions of "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era" and of pamphlets written in English, in French and in Esperanto.
Nor have those who have been primarily responsible for the enrichmentPage 384
of the literature of the Faith and its translation into so many languages, been slow to disseminate it, by every means in their power, in their daily intercourse with individuals as well as in their official contacts with organizations whom they have been seeking to acquaint with the aims and principles of their Faith. The energy, the vigilance, the steadfastness displayed by these heralds of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and their elected representatives, under whose auspices the circulation of Bahá'í literature has, of late years, assumed tremendous dimensions, merit the highest praise. From the reports prepared and circulated by the chief agencies entrusted with the task of the publication and distribution of this literature in the United States and Canada the remarkable facts emerge that, within the space of the eleven months ending February 28, 1943, over 19,000 books, 100,000 pamphlets, 3,000 study outlines, 4,000 sets of selected writings, and 1800 anniversary and Temple cards and folders had been either sold or distributed; that, in the course of two years, 376,000 pamphlets, outlining the character and purpose of the House of Worship, erected in the United States of America, had been printed; that over 300,000 pieces of literature had been distributed at the two World Fairs held in San Francisco and New York; that, in a period of twelve months, 1089 books had been donated to various libraries, and that, through the National Contacts Committee, during one year, more than 2,300 letters, with over 4,500 pamphlets, had reached authors, radio speakers, and representatives of the Jewish and Negro minorities, as well as various organizations interested in international affairs.
In the presentation of this vast literature to men of eminence and rank the elected representatives, as well as the traveling teachers, of the American Bahá'í community, aided by Assemblies in other lands, have, likewise, exhibited an energy and determination as laudable as the efforts exerted for its production. To the King of England, to Queen Marie of Rumania, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to the Emperor of Japan, to the late President von Hindenburg, to the King of Denmark, to the Queen of Sweden, to King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, to the Emperor of Abyssinia, to the King of Egypt, to the late King Feisal of Iraq, to King Zog of Albania, to the late President Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, to the Presidents of Mexico, of Honduras, of Panama, of El-Salvador, of Guatemala, and of Porto Rico, to General Chiang Kaishek, to the Ex-Khedive of Egypt, to the Crown Prince of Sweden, to the Duke of Windsor, to the Duchess of Kent, to the Arch-Duchess Anton of Austria, to Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, to Princess Kadria of Egypt, to Princess Estelle Bernadotte of Wisborg, to Mahatma Gandhi,Page 385
to several ruling princes of India and to the Prime Ministers of all the states of the Australian Commonwealth -- to these, as well as to other personages of lesser rank, Bahá'í literature, touching various aspects of the Faith, has been presented, to some personally, to others through suitable intermediaries, either by individual believers or by the elected representatives of Bahá'í communities.
Nor have these individual teachers and Assemblies been neglectful of their duty to place this literature at the disposal of the public in state, university and public libraries, thereby extending the opportunity to the great mass of the reading public of familiarizing itself with the history and precepts of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. A mere enumeration of a number of the more important of these libraries would suffice to reveal the scope of these activities extending over five continents: the British Museum in London, the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the Library of Congress in Washington, the Peace Palace Library at the Hague, the Nobel Peace Foundation and Nansen Foundation Libraries at Oslo, the Royal Library in Copenhagen, the League of Nations Library in Geneva, the Hoover Peace Library, the Amsterdam University Library, the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, the Allahabad University Library, the Aligarh University Library, the University of Madras Library, the Shantineketan International University Library in Bolepur, the Uthmaniyyih University Library in Hyderabad, the Imperial Library in Calcutta, the Jamia Milli Library in Delhi, the Mysore University Library, the Bernard Library in Rangoon, the Jerabia Wadia Library in Poona, the Lahore Public Library, the Lucknow and Delhi University Libraries, the Johannesburg Public Library, the Rio de Janeiro Circulating libraries, the Manila National Library, the Hong Kong University Library, the Reykjavik public libraries, the Carnegie Library in the Seychelles Islands, the Cuban National Library, the San Juan Public Library, the Ciudad Trujillo University Library, the University and Carnegie Public libraries in Porto Rico, the Library of Parliament in Canberra, the Wellington Parliamentary Library. In all these, as well as in all the chief libraries of Australia and New Zealand, nine libraries in Mexico, several libraries in Mukden, Manchukuo, and more than a thousand public libraries, a hundred service libraries and two hundred university and college libraries, including Indian colleges, in the United States and Canada, authoritative books on the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh have been placed.
State prisons and, since the outbreak of the war, army libraries have been included in the comprehensive scheme which the American Bahá'í community has, through a special committee, devised for thePage 386
diffusion of the literature of the Faith. The interests of the blind, too, have not been neglected by that alert and enterprising community, as is shown by the placing of Bahá'í books, transcribed by its members in Braille, in thirty libraries and institutes, in eighteen states of the United States of America, in Honolulu (Hawaii), in Regina (Saskatchewan), and in the Tokyo and Geneva Libraries for the Blind, as well as in a large number of circulating libraries connected with public libraries in various large cities of the North American continent.
Nor can I dismiss this subject without singling out for special reference her who, not only through her preponderating share in initiating measures for the translation and dissemination of Bahá'í literature, but above all through her prodigious and indeed unique exertions in the international teaching field, has covered herself with a glory that has not only eclipsed the achievements of the teachers of the Faith among her contemporaries the globe around, but has outshone the feats accomplished by any of its propagators in the course of an entire century. To Martha Root, that archetype of Bahá'í itinerant teachers and the foremost Hand raised by Bahá'u'lláh since Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing, must be awarded, if her manifold services and the supreme act of her life are to be correctly appraised, the title of Leading Ambassadress of His Faith and Pride of Bahá'í teachers, whether men or women, in both the East and the West.
The first to arise, in the very year the Tablets of the Divine Plan were unveiled in the United States of America, in response to the epoch-making summons voiced in them by Abdu'l-Bahá; embarking, with unswerving resolve and a spirit of sublime detachment, on her world journeys, covering an almost uninterrupted period of twenty years and carrying her four times round the globe, in the course of which she traveled four times to China and Japan and three times to India, visited every important city in South America, transmitted the message of the New Day to kings, queens, princes and princesses, presidents of republics, ministers and statesmen, publicists, professors, clergymen and poets, as well as a vast number of people in various walks of life, and contacted, both officially and informally, religious congresses, peace societies, Esperanto associations, socialist congresses, Theosophical societies, women's clubs and other kindred organizations, this indomitable soul has, by virtue of the character of her exertions and the quality of the victories she has won, established a record that constitutes the nearest approach to the example set by Abdu'l-BaháPage 387
Himself to His disciples in the course of His journeys throughout the West.
Her eight successive audiences with Queen Marie of Rumania, the first of which took place in January, 1926 in Controceni Palace in Bucharest, the second in 1927 in Pelisor Palace in Sinaia, followed by a visit in January of the ensuing year to her Majesty and her daughter Princess Ileana, at the royal palace in Belgrade, where they were staying as guests of the King and Queen of Yugoslavia, and later, in October, 1929, at the Queen's summer palace "Tehna Yuva," at Balcic, on the Black Sea, and again, in August, 1932 and February, 1933, at the home of Princess Ileana (now Arch-Duchess Anton of Austria) at Modling, near Vienna, followed a year later, in February, by another audience at Controceni Palace, and lastly, in February, 1936, in that same palace -- these audiences stand out, by reason of the profound influence exerted by the visitor on her royal hostess, as witnessed by the successive encomiums from the Queen's own pen, as the most outstanding feature of those memorable journeys. The three invitations which that indefatigable champion of the Faith received to call on Prince Paul and Princess Olga of Yugoslavia at the Royal Palace in Belgrade; the lectures which she delivered in over four hundred universities and colleges in both the East and the West; her twice repeated visits to all German universities with the exception of two, as well as to nearly a hundred universities, colleges and schools in China; the innumerable articles which she published in newspapers and magazines in practically every country she visited; the numerous broadcasts which she delivered and the unnumbered books she placed in private and state libraries; her personal meetings with the statesmen of more than fifty countries, during her three-months stay in Geneva, in 1932, at the time of the Disarmament Conference; the painstaking efforts she exerted, while on her arduous journeys, in supervising the translation and production of a large number of versions of Dr. Esslemont's "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era"; the correspondence exchanged with, and the presentation of Bahá'í books to, men of eminence and learning; her pilgrimage to Persia, and the touching homage paid by her to the memory of the heroes of the Faith when visiting the Bahá'í historic sites in that country; her visit to Adrianople, where, in her overflowing love for Bahá'u'lláh, she searched out the houses where He had dwelt and the people whom He had met during His exile to that city, and where she was entertained by its governor and mayor; the ready and unfailing assistance extended by her to the administrators of the Faith in all countries where its institutions had been erected or were beingPage 388
established -- these may be regarded as the highlights of a service which, in many of its aspects, is without parallel in the entire history of the first Bahá'í century.
No less impressive is the list of the names of those whom she interviewed in the course of the execution of her mission, including, in addition to those already mentioned, such royal personages and distinguished figures as King Haakon of Norway; King Feisal of Iraq; King Zog of Albania and members of his family; Princess Marina of Greece (now the Duchess of Kent); Princess Elizabeth of Greece; President Thomas G. Masaryk and President Eduard Benes of Czechoslovakia; the President of Austria; Dr. Sun Yat Sen; Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University; Prof. Bogdan Popovitch of Belgrade University; the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Tawfiq Rushdi Bey; the Chinese Foreign Minister and Minister of Education; the Lithuanian Foreign Minister; Prince Muhammad-'Ali of Egypt; Stephen Raditch; the Maharajas of Patiala, of Benares, and of Travancore; the Governor and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem; Dr. Erling Eidem, Archbishop of Sweden; Sarojini Naidu; Sir Rabindranath Tagore; Madame Huda Sha'ravi, the Egyptian feminist leader; Dr. K. Ichiki, minister of the Japanese Imperial Household; Prof. Tetrujiro Inouye, Prof. Emeritus of the Imperial University of Tokyo; Baron Yoshiro Sakatani, member of the House of Peers of Japan and Mehmed Fuad, Doyen of the Faculty of Letters and President of the Institute of Turkish history.
Neither age nor ill-health, neither the paucity of literature which hampered her early efforts, nor the meager resources which imposed an added burden on her labors, neither the extremities of the climates to which she was exposed, nor the political disturbances which she encountered in the course of her journeys, could damp the zeal or deflect the purpose of this spiritually dynamic and saintly woman. Single-handed and, on more than one occasion, in extremely perilous circumstances, she continued to call, in clarion tones, men of diverse creeds, color and classes to the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, until, while in spite of a deadly and painful disease, the onslaught of which she endured with heroic fortitude, she hastened homeward to help in the recently launched Seven Year Plan, she was stricken down on her way, in far off Honolulu. There in that symbolic spot between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, in both of which she had labored so mightily, she died, on September 28, 1939, and brought to its close a life which may well be regarded as the fairest fruit as yet yielded by the Formative Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh.Page 389
To the injunction of Abdu'l-Bahá bequeathed in His Will to follow in the footsteps of the disciples of Jesus Christ, "not to rest for a moment," to "travel throughout all regions" and to raise, "without rest and steadfast to the end," "in every land, the cry of 'Ya Baha'u'l-Abha,'" this immortal heroine yielded an obedience of which the present as well as future generations may well be proud, and which they may emulate.
"Unrestrained as the wind," putting her "whole trust" in God, as "the best provision" for her journey, she fulfilled almost to the letter the wish so poignantly expressed by Abdu'l-Bahá in the Tablets, whose summons she had instantly arisen to carry out: "O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of 'Ya Baha'u'l-Abha' in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the Divine teachings! This, alas, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it."
"I am deeply distressed to hear of the death of good Miss Martha Root," is the royal tribute paid to her memory by Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, on being informed of her death, "as I had no idea of it. We always enjoyed her visits in the past. She was so kind and gentle, and a real worker for peace. I am sure she will be sadly missed in her work."
"Thou art, in truth, a herald of the Kingdom and a harbinger of the Covenant," is the testimony from the unerring pen of the Center of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant Himself, "Thou art truly self-sacrificing. Thou showest kindness unto all nations. Thou art sowing a seed that shall, in due time, give rise to thousands of harvests. Thou art planting a tree that shall eternally put forth leaves and blossoms and yield fruits, and whose shadow shall day by day grow in magnitude."
Of all the services rendered the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh by this star servant of His Faith, the most superb and by far the most momentous has been the almost instantaneous response evoked in Queen Marie of Rumania to the Message which that ardent and audacious pioneer had carried to her during one of the darkest moments of her life, an hour of bitter need, perplexity and sorrow. "It came," she herself in a letter had testified, "as all great messages come, at an hour of dire grief and inner conflict and distress, so the seed sank deeply."
Eldest daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh, who was the second son of that Queen to whom Bahá'u'lláh had, in a significant Tablet, addressed words of commendation; granddaughter of Czar Alexander II to whom an Epistle had been revealed by that same Pen; related by both birth and marriage to Europe's most prominent families; born in the Anglican Faith; closely associated through her marriage with thePage 390
Greek Orthodox Church, the state religion of her adopted country; herself an accomplished authoress; possessed of a charming and radiant personality; highly talented, clear-visioned, daring and ardent by nature; keenly devoted to all enterprises of a humanitarian character, she, alone among her sister-queens, alone among all those of royal birth or station, was moved to spontaneously acclaim the greatness of the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, to proclaim His Fatherhood, as well as the Prophethood of Muhammad, to commend the Bahá'í teachings to all men and women, and to extol their potency, sublimity and beauty.
Through the fearless acknowledgment of her belief to her own kith and kin, and particularly to her youngest daughter; through three successive encomiums that constitute her greatest and abiding legacy to posterity; through three additional appreciations penned by her as her contribution to Bahá'í publications; through several letters written to friends and associates, as well as those addressed to her guide and spiritual mother; through various tokens expressive of faith and gratitude for the glad-tidings that had been brought to her through the orders for Bahá'í books placed by her and her youngest daughter; and lastly through her frustrated pilgrimage to the Holy Land for the express purpose of paying homage at the graves of the Founders of the Faith -- through such acts as these this illustrious queen may well deserve to rank as the first of those royal supporters of the Cause of God who are to arise in the future, and each of whom, in the words of Bahá'u'lláh Himself, is to be acclaimed as "the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountainhead of blessings unto the whole world."
"Some of those of my caste," she, in a personal letter, has significantly testified, "wonder at and disapprove my courage to step forward pronouncing words not habitual for crowned heads to pronounce, but I advance by an inner urge I cannot resist. With bowed head I recognize that I too am but an instrument in greater Hands, and I rejoice in the knowledge."
A note which Martha Root, upon her arrival in Bucharest, sent to her Majesty and a copy of "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era," which accompanied the note, and which so absorbed the Queen's attention that she continued reading it into the small hours of the morning, led, two days later, to the Queen's granting Martha Root an audience, on January 30, 1926, in Controceni Palace in Bucharest, in the course of which her Majesty avowed her belief that "these teachings are the solution for the world's problems"; and from these followed her publication, that same year on her own initiative, of those three epoch-makingPage 391
testimonies which appeared in nearly two hundred newspapers of the United States and Canada, and which were subsequently translated and published in Europe, China, Japan, Australia, the Near East and the Islands of the seas.
In the first of these testimonies she affirmed that the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá are "a great cry toward peace, reaching beyond all limits of frontiers, above all dissensions about rites and dogmas... It is a wondrous message that Bahá'u'lláh and His Son Abdu'l-Bahá have given us! They have not set it up aggressively, knowing that the germ of eternal truth which lies at its core cannot but take root and spread... It is Christ's message taken up anew, in the same words almost, but adapted to the thousand years and more difference that lies between the year one and today." She added a remarkable admonition, reminiscent of the telling words of Dr. Benjamin Jowett, who had hailed the Faith, in his conversation with his pupil, Prof. Lewis Campbell, as "the greatest light that has come into the world since the time of Jesus Christ," and cautioned him to "watch it" and never let it out of his sight. "If ever," wrote the Queen, "the name of Bahá'u'lláh or Abdu'l-Bahá comes to your attention, do not put their writings from you. Search out their books, and let their glorious, peace-bringing, love-creating words and lessons sink into your hearts as they have into mine... Seek them and be the happier."
In another of these testimonies, wherein she makes a significant comment on the station of the Arabian Prophet, she declared: "God is all. Everything. He is the power behind all beings... His is the voice within us that shows us good and evil. But mostly we ignore or misunderstand this voice. Therefore, did He choose His Elect to come down amongst us upon earth to make clear His Word, His real meaning. Therefore the Prophets; therefore Christ, Muhammad, Bahá'u'lláh, for man needs from time to time a voice upon earth to bring God to him, to sharpen the realization of the existence of the true God. Those voices sent to us had to become flesh, so that with our earthly ears we should be able to hear and understand."
In appreciation of these testimonies a communication was addressed to her, in the name of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in East and West, and in the course of the deeply touching letter which she sent in reply she wrote: "Indeed a great light came to me with the Message of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá... My youngest daughter finds also great strength and comfort in the teachings of the beloved Masters. We pass on the Message from mouth to mouth, and all those we give it to see a light suddenly lighting before them, and much that wasPage 392
obscure and perplexing becomes simple, luminous and full of hope as never before. That my open letter was a balm to those suffering for the Cause, is indeed a great happiness to me, and I take it as a sign that God accepted my humble tribute. The occasion given me to be able to express myself publicly was also His work, for indeed it was a chain of circumstances of which each link led me unwittingly one step further, till suddenly all was clear before my eyes and I understood why it had been. Thus does He lead us finally to our ultimate destiny ...Little by little the veil is lifting, grief tore it in two. And grief was also a step leading me ever nearer truth; therefore do I not cry out against grief!"
In a significant and moving letter to an intimate American friend of hers, residing in Paris, she wrote: "Lately a great hope has come to me from one Abdu'l-Bahá. I have found in His and His Father, Bahá'u'lláh's Message of faith, all my yearning for real religion satisfied ...What I mean: these Books have strengthened me beyond belief, and I am now ready to die any day full of hope. But I pray God not to take me away yet, for I still have a lot of work to do."
And again in one of her later appreciations of the Faith: "The Bahá'í teaching brings peace and understanding. It is like a wide embrace gathering all those who have long searched for words of hope... Saddened by the continual strife amongst believers of many confessions and wearied of their intolerance towards each other, I discovered in the Bahá'í teaching the real spirit of Christ so often denied and misunderstood." And again, this wonderful confession: "The Bahá'í teaching brings peace to the soul and hope to the heart. To those in search of assurance the words of the Father are as a fountain in the desert after long wandering."
"The beautiful truth of Bahá'u'lláh," she wrote to Martha Root, "is with me always, a help and an inspiration. What I wrote was because my heart overflowed with gratitude for the reflection you brought me. I am happy if you think I helped. I thought it might bring truth nearer because my words are read by so many."
In the course of a visit to the Near East she expressed her intention of visiting the Bahá'í Shrines, and, accompanied by her youngest daughter, actually passed through Haifa, and was within sight of her goal, when she was denied the right to make the pilgrimage she had planned -- to the keen disappointment of the aged Greatest Holy Leaf who had eagerly expected her arrival. A few months later, in June, 1931, she wrote in the course of a letter to Martha Root: "Both Ileana and I were cruelly disappointed at having been prevented going to thePage 393
holy Shrines ... but at that time we were going through a cruel crisis, and every movement I made was being turned against me and being politically exploited in an unkind way. It caused me a good deal of suffering and curtailed my liberty most unkindly... But the beauty of truth remains, and I cling to it through all the vicissitudes of a life become rather sad... I am glad to hear that your traveling has been so fruitful, and I wish you continual success knowing what a beautiful Message you are carrying from land to land."
After this sad disappointment she wrote to a friend of her childhood who dwelt near Akka, in a house formerly occupied by Bahá'u'lláh: "It was indeed nice to hear from you, and to think that you are of all things living near Haifa and are, as I am, a follower of the Bahá'í teachings. It interests me that you are living in that special house... I was so intensely interested and studied each photo intently. It must be a lovely place ... and the house you live in, so incredibly attractive and made precious by its associations with the Man we all venerate..."
Her last public tribute to the Faith she had dearly loved was made two years before her death. "More than ever today," she wrote, "when the world is facing such a crisis of bewilderment and unrest, must we stand firm in Faith seeking that which binds together instead of tearing asunder. To those searching for light, the Bahá'í teachings offer a star which will lead them to deeper understanding, to assurance, peace and goodwill with all men."
Martha Root's own illuminating record is given in one of her articles as follows: "For ten years Her Majesty and her daughter, H.R.H. Princess Ileana (now Arch-Duchess Anton) have read with interest each new book about the Bahá'í Movement, as soon as it came from the press... Received in audience by Her Majesty in Pelisor Palace, Sinaia, in 1927, after the passing of His Majesty King Ferdinand, her husband, she graciously gave me an interview, speaking of the Bahá'í teachings about immortality. She had on her table and on the divan a number of Bahá'í books, for she had just been reading in each of them the Teachings about life after death. She asked the writer to give her greeting to ... the friends in Iran and to the many American Baha'is, who she said had been so remarkably kind to her during her trip through the United States the year before... Meeting the Queen again on January 19, 1928, in the Royal Palace in Belgrade, where she and H.R.H. Princess Ileana were guests of the Queen of Yugoslavia -- and they had brought some of their Bahá'í books withPage 394
them -- the words that I shall remember longest of all that her dear Majesty said were these: 'The ultimate dream which we shall realize is that the Bahá'í channel of thought has such strength, it will serve little by little to become a light to all those searching for the real expression of Truth'... Then in the audience in Controceni Palace, on February 16, 1934, when her Majesty was told that the Rumanian translation of 'Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era' had just been published in Bucharest, she said she was so happy that her people were to have the blessing of reading this precious teaching... And now today, February 4, 1936, I have just had another audience with Her Majesty in Controceni Palace, in Bucharest... Again Queen Marie of Rumania received me cordially in her softly lighted library, for the hour was six o'clock... What a memorable visit it was!... She also told me that when she was in London she had met a Baha'i, Lady Blomfield, who had shown her the original Message that Bahá'u'lláh had sent to her grand-mother, Queen Victoria, in London. She asked the writer about the progress of the Bahá'í Movement, especially in the Balkan countries... She spoke too of several Bahá'í books, the depths of "Iqan," and especially of "Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh," which she said was a wonderful book! To quote her own words: 'Even doubters would find a powerful strength in it, if they would read it alone, and would give their souls time to expand.' ...I asked her if I could perhaps speak of the brooch which historically is precious to Baha'is, and she replied, 'Yes, you may.' Once, and it was in 1928, Her dear Majesty had given the writer a gift, a lovely and rare brooch which had been a gift to the Queen from her royal relatives in Russia some years ago. It was two little wings of wrought gold and silver, set with tiny diamond chips, and joined together with one large pearl. 'Always you are giving gifts to others, and I am going to give you a gift from me,' said the Queen smiling, and she herself clasped it onto my dress. The wings and the pearl made it seem 'Light-bearing' Baha'i! It was sent the same week to Chicago as a gift to the Bahá'í Temple ... and at the National Bahá'í Convention which was in session that spring, a demur was made -- should a gift from the Queen be sold? Should it not be kept as a souvenir of the first Queen who arose to promote the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh? However, it was sold immediately and the money given to the Temple, for all Bahá'ís were giving to the utmost to forward this mighty structure, the first of its kind in the United States of America. Mr. Willard Hatch, a Bahá'í of Los Angeles, Calif., who bought the exquisite brooch, took it to Haifa, Palestine, in 1931, and placed it in thePage 395
Archives on Mt. Carmel, where down the ages it will rest with the Bahá'í treasures..."
In July, 1938, Queen Marie of Rumania passed away. A message of condolence was communicated, in the name of all Bahá'í communities in East and West, to her daughter, the Queen of Yugoslavia, to which she replied expressing "sincere thanks to all of Bahá'u'lláh's followers." The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Persia addressed, on behalf of the followers of the Faith in Bahá'u'lláh's native land, a letter expressive of grief and sympathy to her son, the King of Rumania and the Rumanian Royal Family, the text of which was in both Persian and English. An expression of profound and loving sympathy was sent by Martha Root to Princess Ileana, and was gratefully acknowledged by her. Memorial gatherings were held in the Queen's memory, at which a meed of honor was paid to her bold and epochal confession of faith in the Fatherhood of Bahá'u'lláh, to her recognition of the station of the Prophet of Islam and to the several encomiums from her pen. On the first anniversary of her death the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada demonstrated its grateful admiration and affection for the deceased Queen by associating itself, through an imposing floral offering, with the impressive memorial service, held in her honor, and arranged by the Rumanian Minister, in Bethlehem Chapel, at the Cathedral of Washington, D.C., at which the American delegation, headed by the Secretary of State and including government officials and representatives of the Army and Navy, the British, French and Italian Ambassadors, and representatives of other European embassies and legations joined in a common tribute to one who, apart from the imperishable renown achieved by her in the Kingdom of Bahá'u'lláh, had earned, in this earthly life, the esteem and love of many a soul living beyond the confines of her own country.
Queen Marie's acknowledgment of the Divine Message stands as the first fruits of the vision which Bahá'u'lláh had seen long before in His captivity, and had announced in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas. "How great," He wrote, "the blessedness that awaits the King who will arise to aid My Cause in My Kingdom, who will detach himself from all else but Me!... All must glorify his name, must reverence his station, and aid him to unlock the cities with the keys of My Name, the Omnipotent Protector of all that inhabit the visible and invisible kingdoms. Such a king is the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountain-head of blessings unto the whole world.Page 396
Offer up, O people of Baha, your substance, nay your very lives for his assistance."
The American Bahá'í community, crowned with imperishable glory by these signal international services of Martha Root, was destined, as the first Bahá'í century drew to a close, to distinguish itself, through the concerted efforts of its members, both at home and abroad, by further achievements of such scope and quality that no survey of the teaching activities of the Faith in the course of that century can afford to ignore them. It would be no exaggeration to say that these colossal achievements, with the amazing results which flowed from them, could only have been effected through the harnessing of all the agencies of a newly established Administrative Order, operating in conformity with a carefully conceived Plan, and that they constitute a befitting conclusion to the record of a hundred years of sublime endeavor in the service of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh.
That the community of His followers in the United States and Canada should have carried off the palm of victory in the concluding years of such a glorious century is not a matter for surprise. Its accomplishments during the last two decades of the Heroic, and throughout the first fifteen years of the Formative Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation, had already augured well for its future, and had paved the way for its final victory ere the expiration of the first century of the Bahá'í Era.
The Báb had in His Qayyumu'l-Asma', almost a hundred years previously, sounded His specific summons to the "peoples of the West" to "issue forth" from their "cities" and aid His Cause. Bahá'u'lláh, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, had collectively addressed the Presidents of the Republics of the entire Americas, bidding them arise and "bind with the hands of justice the broken," and "crush the oppressor" with the "rod of the commandments" of their Lord, and had, moreover, anticipated in His writings the appearance "in the West" of the "signs of His Dominion." Abdu'l-Bahá had, on His part, declared that the "illumination" shed by His Father's Revelation upon the West would acquire an "extraordinary brilliancy," and that the "light of the Kingdom" would "shed a still greater illumination upon the West" than upon the East. He had extolled the American continent in particular as "the land wherein the splendors of His Light shall be revealed, where the mysteries of His Faith shall be unveiled," and affirmed that "it will lead all nations spiritually." More specifically still, He had singled out the Great Republic of the West, the leading nation of that continent, declaring that its people were "indeed worthy of being the first toPage 397
build the Tabernacle of the Most Great Peace and proclaim the oneness of mankind," that it was "equipped and empowered to accomplish that which will adorn the pages of history, to become the envy of the world, and be blest in both the East and the West."
The first act of His ministry had been to unfurl the standard of Bahá'u'lláh in the very heart of that Republic. This was followed by His own prolonged visit to its shores, by His dedication of the first House of Worship to be built by the community of His disciples in that land, and finally by the revelation, in the evening of His life, of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, investing His disciples with a mandate to plant the banner of His Father's Faith, as He had planted it in their own land, in all the continents, the countries and islands of the globe. He had, furthermore, acclaimed one of their most celebrated presidents as one who, through the ideals he had expounded and the institutions he had inaugurated, had caused the "dawn" of the Peace anticipated by Bahá'u'lláh to break; had voiced the hope that from their country "heavenly illumination" may "stream to all the peoples of the world"; had designated them in those Tablets as "Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh"; had assured them that, "should success crown" their "enterprise," "the throne of the Kingdom of God will, in the plenitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly established"; and had made the stirring announcement that "the moment this Divine Message is propagated" by them "through the continents of Europe, of Asia, of Africa and of Australasia, and as far as the islands of the Pacific, this community will find itself securely established upon the throne of an everlasting dominion," and that "the whole earth" would "resound with the praises of its majesty and greatness."
That Community had already, in the lifetime of Him Who had created it, tenderly nursed and repeatedly blessed it, and had at last conferred upon it so distinctive a mission, arisen to launch the enterprise of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar through the purchase of its land and the laying of its foundations. It had despatched its teachers to the East and to the West to propagate the Cause it had espoused, had established the basis of its community life, and had, since His passing, erected the superstructure and commenced the external ornamentation of its Temple. It had, moreover, assumed a preponderating share in the task of erecting the framework of the Administrative Order of the Faith, of championing its cause, of demonstrating its independent character, of enriching and disseminating its literature, of lending moral and material assistance to its persecuted followers, of repelling the assaults of its adversaries and of winning the allegiance of royaltyPage 398
to its Founder. Such a splendid record was to culminate, as the century approached its end, in the initiation of a Plan -- the first stage in the execution of the Mission entrusted to it by Abdu'l-Bahá -- which, within the space of seven brief years, was to bring to a successful completion the exterior ornamentation of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, to almost double the number of Spiritual Assemblies functioning in the North American continent, to bring the total number of localities in which Bahá'ís reside to no less than thirteen hundred and twenty-two in that same continent, to establish the structural basis of the Administrative Order in every state of the United States and every province of Canada, and by laying a firm anchorage in each of the twenty Republics of Central and South America, to swell to sixty the number of the sovereign states included within its orbit.
Many and diverse forces combined now to urge the American Bahá'í community to strong action: the glowing exhortations and promises of Bahá'u'lláh and His behest to erect in His name Houses of Worship; the directions issued by Abdu'l-Bahá in fourteen Tablets addressed to the believers residing in the Western, the Central, the North Eastern and Southern States of the North American Republic and in the Dominion of Canada; His prophetic utterances regarding the future of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in America; the influence of the new Administrative Order in fostering and rendering effective an eager spirit of cooperation; the example of Martha Root who, though equipped with no more than a handful of inadequately translated leaflets, had traveled to South America and visited every important city in that continent; the tenacity and self-sacrifice of the fearless and brilliant Keith Ransom-Kehler, the first American martyr, who, journeying to Persia had pleaded in numerous interviews with ministers, ecclesiastics and government officials the cause of her down-trodden brethren in that land, had addressed no less than seven petitions to the Shah, and, heedless of the warnings of age and ill-health, had at last succumbed in Isfahan. Other factors which spurred the members of that community to fresh sacrifices and adventure were their eagerness to reinforce the work intermittently undertaken through the settlement and travels of a number of pioneers, who had established the first center of the Faith in Brazil, circumnavigated the South American continent and visited the West Indies and distributed literature in various countries of Central and South America; the consciousness of their pressing responsibilities in the face of a rapidly deteriorating international situation; the realization that the first Bahá'í century was fast speeding to a close and their anxiety to bring to a befitting conclusionPage 399
an enterprise that had been launched thirty years previously. Undeterred by the immensity of the field, the power wielded by firmly entrenched ecclesiastical organizations, the political instability of some of the countries in which they were to settle, the climatic conditions they were to encounter, and the difference in language and custom of the people amongst whom they were to reside, and keenly aware of the crying needs of the Faith in the North American continent, the members of the American Bahá'í community arose, as one man, to inaugurate a threefold campaign, carefully planned and systematically conducted, designed to establish a Spiritual Assembly in every virgin state and province in North America, to form a nucleus of resident believers in each of the Republics of Central and South America, and to consummate the exterior ornamentation of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar.
A hundred activities, administrative and educational, were devised and pursued for the prosecution of this noble Plan. Through the liberal contribution of funds; through the establishment of an Inter-America Committee and the formation of auxiliary Regional Teaching Committees; through the founding of an International School to provide training for Bahá'í teachers; through the settlement of pioneers in virgin areas and the visits of itinerant teachers; through the dissemination of literature in Spanish and Portuguese; through the initiation of teacher training courses and extension work by groups and local Assemblies; through newspaper and radio publicity; through the exhibition of Temple slides and models; through inter-community conferences and lectures delivered in universities and colleges; through the intensification of teaching courses and Latin American studies at summer schools -- through these and other activities the prosecutors of this Seven-Year Plan have succeeded in sealing the triumph of what must be regarded as the greatest collective enterprise ever launched by the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in the entire history of the first Bahá'í century.
Indeed, ere the expiry of that century not only had the work on the Temple been completed sixteen months before the appointed time, but instead of one tiny nucleus in every Latin Republic, Spiritual Assemblies had already been established in Mexico City and Puebla (Mexico), in Buenos Aires (Argentina), in Guatemala City (Guatemala), in Santiago (Chile), in Montevideo (Uruguay), in Quito (Ecuador), in Bogota (Colombia), in Lima (Peru), in Asuncion (Paraguay), in Tegucigalpa (Honduras), in San Salvador (El-Salvador), in San Jose and Puntarenas (Costa Rica), in Havana (Cuba) and in Port-au-Prince (Haiti). Extension work, in which newlyPage 400
fledged Latin American believers were participating, had, moreover, been initiated, and was being vigorously carried out, in the Republics of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Panama and Costa Rica; believers had established their residence not only in the capital cities of all the Latin American Republics, but also in such centers as Veracruz, Cananea and Tacubaya (Mexico), in Balboa and Christobal (Panama), in Recife (Brazil), in Guayaquil and Ambato (Ecuador), and in Temuco and Magellanes (Chile); the Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'ís of Mexico City and of San Jose had been incorporated; in the former city a Bahá'í center, comprising a library, a reading room and a lecture room, had been founded; Bahá'í Youth Symposiums had been observed in Havana, Buenos Aires and Santiago, whilst a distributing center of Bahá'í literature for Latin America had been established in Buenos Aires.
Nor was this gigantic enterprise destined to be deprived, in its initial stage, of a blessing that was to cement the spiritual union of the Americas -- a blessing flowing from the sacrifice of one who, at the very dawn of the Day of the Covenant, had been responsible for the establishment of the first Bahá'í centers in both Europe and the Dominion of Canada, and who, though seventy years of age and suffering from ill-health, undertook a six thousand mile voyage to the capital of Argentina, where, while still on the threshold of her pioneer service, she suddenly passed away, imparting through such a death to the work initiated in that Republic an impetus which has already enabled it, through the establishment of a distributing center of Bahá'í literature for Latin America and through other activities, to assume the foremost position among its sister Republics.
To May Maxwell, laid to rest in the soil of Argentina; to Hyde Dunn, whose dust reposes in the Antipodes, in the city of Sydney; to Keith Ransom-Kehler, entombed in distant Isfahan; to Susan Moody and Lillian Kappes and their valiant associates who lie buried in Tihran; to Lua Getsinger, reposing forever in the capital of Egypt, and last but not least to Martha Root, interred in an island in the bosom of the Pacific, belong the matchless honor of having conferred, through their services and sacrifice, a lustre upon the American Bahá'í community for which its representatives, while celebrating at their historic, their first All-American Convention, their hard-won victories, may well feel eternally grateful.
Gathered within the walls of its national Shrine -- the most sacred Temple ever to be reared to the glory of Bahá'u'lláh; commemorating at once the centenary of the birth of the Bábi Dispensation, of thePage 401
inauguration of the Bahá'í era, of the inception of the Bahá'í Cycle and of the birth of Abdu'l-Bahá, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Faith in the Western Hemisphere; associated in its celebration with the representatives of American Republics, foregathered in the close vicinity of a city that may well pride itself on being the first Bahá'í center established in the Western world, this community may indeed feel, on this solemn occasion, that it has, in its turn, through the triumphal conclusion of the first stage of the Plan traced for it by Abdu'l-Bahá, shed a lasting glory upon its sister communities in East and West, and written, in golden letters, the concluding pages in the annals of the first Bahá'í century.Page 402
Thus drew to a close the first century of the Bahá'í era -- an epoch which, in its sublimity and fecundity, is without parallel in the entire field of religious history, and indeed in the annals of mankind. A process, God-impelled, endowed with measureless potentialities, mysterious in its workings, awful in the retribution meted out to every one seeking to resist its operation, infinitely rich in its promise for the regeneration and redemption of human kind, had been set in motion in Shiraz, had gained momentum successively in Tihran, Baghdad, Adrianople and Akka, had projected itself across the seas, poured its generative influences into the West, and manifested the initial evidences of its marvelous, world-energizing force in the midst of the North American continent.
It had sprung from the heart of Asia, and pressing westward had gathered speed in its resistless course, until it had encircled the earth with a girdle of glory. It had been generated by the son of a mercer in the province of Fars, had been reshaped by a nobleman of Nur, had been reinforced through the exertions of One Who had spent the fairest years of His youth and manhood in exile and imprisonment, and had achieved its most conspicuous triumphs in a country and amidst a people living half the circumference of the globe distant from the land of its origin. It had repulsed every onslaught directed against it, torn down every barrier opposing its advance, abased every proud antagonist who had sought to sap its strength, and had exalted to heights of incredible courage the weakest and humblest among those who had arisen and become willing instruments of its revolutionizing power. Heroic struggles and matchless victories, interwoven with appalling tragedies and condign punishments, have formed the pattern of its hundred year old history.
A handful of students, belonging to the Shaykhi school, sprung from the Ithna-'Ashariyyih sect of Shi'ah Islam, had, in consequence of the operation of this process, been expanded and transformed into a world community, closely knit, clear of vision, alive, consecrated by the sacrifice of no less than twenty thousand martyrs; supranational; non-sectarian; non-political; claiming the status, and assuming the functions, of a world religion; spread over five continents and the islands of the seas; with ramifications extending over sixty sovereignPage 403
states and seventeen dependencies; equipped with a literature translated and broadcast in forty languages; exercising control over endowments representing several million dollars; recognized by a number of governments in both the East and the West; integral in aim and outlook; possessing no professional clergy; professing a single belief; following a single law; animated by a single purpose; organically united through an Administrative Order, divinely ordained and unique in its features; including within its orbit representatives of all the leading religions of the world, of various classes and races; faithful to its civil obligations; conscious of its civic responsibilities, as well as of the perils confronting the society of which it forms a part; sharing the sufferings of that society and confident of its own high destiny.
The nucleus of this community had been formed by the Báb, soon after the night of the Declaration of His Mission to Mulla Husayn in Shiraz. A clamor in which the Shah, his government, his people and the entire ecclesiastical hierarchy of his country unanimously joined had greeted its birth. Captivity, swift and cruel, in the mountains of Adhirbayjan, had been the lot of its youthful Founder, almost immediately after His return from His pilgrimage to Mecca. Amidst the solitude of Mah-Ku and Chihriq, He had instituted His Covenant, formulated His laws, and transmitted to posterity the overwhelming majority of His writings. A conference of His disciples, headed by Bahá'u'lláh, had, in the hamlet of Badasht, abrogated in dramatic circumstances the laws of the Islamic, and ushered in the new, Dispensation. In Tabriz He had, in the presence of the Heir to the Throne and the leading ecclesiastical dignitaries of Adhirbayjan, publicly and unreservedly voiced His claim to be none other than the promised, the long-awaited Qa'im. Tempests of devastating violence in Mazindaran, Nayriz, Zanjan and Tihran had decimated the ranks of His followers and robbed Him of the noblest and most valuable of His supporters. He Himself had to witness the virtual annihilation of His Faith and the loss of most of the Letters of the Living, and, after experiencing, in His own person, a series of bitter humiliations, He had been executed by a firing squad in the barrack-square of Tabriz. A blood bath of unusual ferocity had engulfed the greatest heroine of His Faith, had further denuded it of its adherents, had extinguished the life of His trusted amanuensis and repository of His last wishes, and swept Bahá'u'lláh into the depths of the foulest dungeon of Tihran.
In the pestilential atmosphere of the Siyah-Chal, nine years after that historic Declaration, the Message proclaimed by the Báb hadPage 404
yielded its fruit, His promise had been redeemed, and the most glorious, the most momentous period of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í era had dawned. A momentary eclipse of the newly risen Sun of Truth, the world's greatest Luminary, had ensued, as a result of Bahá'u'lláh's precipitate banishment to Iraq by order of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, of His sudden withdrawal to the mountains of Kurdistan, and of the degradation and confusion that afflicted the remnant of the persecuted community of His fellow-disciples in Baghdad. A reversal in the fortunes of a fast declining community, following His return from His two-year retirement, had set in, bringing in its wake the recreation of that community, the reformation of its morals, the enhancement of its prestige, the enrichment of its doctrine, and culminating in the Declaration of His Mission in the garden of Najibiyyih to His immediate companions on the eve of His banishment to Constantinople. Another crisis -- the severest a struggling Faith was destined to experience in the course of its history -- precipitated by the rebellion of the Báb's nominee and the iniquities perpetrated by him and by the evil genius that had seduced him, had, in Adrianople, well nigh disrupted the newly consolidated forces of the Faith and all but destroyed in a baptism of fire the community of the Most Great Name which Bahá'u'lláh had called into being. Cleansed of the pollution of this "Most Great Idol," undeterred by the convulsion that had seized it, an indestructible Faith had, in the strength of the Covenant instituted by the Báb, now surmounted the most formidable obstacles it was ever to meet; and in this very hour it reached its meridian glory through the proclamation of the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh to the kings, the rulers and ecclesiastical leaders of the world in both the East and the West. Close on the heels of this unprecedented victory had followed the climax of His sufferings, a banishment to the penal colony of Akka, decreed by Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz. This had been hailed by vigilant enemies as the signal for the final extermination of a much feared and hated adversary, and it had heaped upon that Faith in this fortress-town, designated by Bahá'u'lláh as His "Most Great Prison," calamities from both within and without, such as it had never before experienced. The formulation of the laws and ordinances of a new-born Dispensation and the enunciation and reaffirmation of its fundamental principles -- the warp and woof of a future Administrative Order -- had, however, enabled a slowly maturing Revelation, in spite of this tide of tribulations, to advance a stage further and yield its fairest fruit.
The ascension of Bahá'u'lláh had plunged into grief and bewildermentPage 405
His loyal supporters, quickened the hopes of the betrayers of His Cause, who had rebelled against His God-given authority, and rejoiced and encouraged His political as well as ecclesiastical adversaries. The Instrument He had forged, the Covenant He had Himself instituted, had canalized, after His passing, the forces released by Him in the course of a forty-year ministry, had preserved the unity of His Faith and provided the impulse required to propel it forward to achieve its destiny. The proclamation of this new Covenant had been followed by yet another crisis, precipitated by one of His own sons on whom, according to the provisions of that Instrument, had been conferred a rank second to none except the Center of that Covenant Himself. Impelled by the forces engendered by the revelation of that immortal and unique Document, an unbreachable Faith (having registered its initial victory over the Covenant-breakers), had, under the leadership of Abdu'l-Bahá, irradiated the West, illuminated the Western fringes of Europe, hoisted its banner in the heart of the North American continent, and set in motion the processes that were to culminate in the transfer of the mortal remains of its Herald to the Holy Land and their entombment in a mausoleum on Mt. Carmel, as well as in the erection of its first House of Worship in Russian Turkistan. A major crisis, following swiftly upon the signal victories achieved in East and West, attributable to the monstrous intrigues of the Arch-breaker of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and to the orders issued by the tyrannical Abdu'l-Hamid, had exposed, during more than seven years, the Heart and Center of the Faith to imminent peril, filled with anxiety and anguish its followers and postponed the execution of the enterprises conceived for its spread and consolidation. Abdu'l-Bahá'í historic journeys in Europe and America, soon after the fall of that tyrant and the collapse of his regime, had dealt a staggering blow to the Covenant-breakers, had consolidated the colossal enterprise He had undertaken in the opening years of His ministry, had raised the prestige of His Father's Faith to heights it had never before attained, had been instrumental in proclaiming its verities far and wide, and had paved the way for the diffusion of its light over the Far East and as far as the Antipodes. Another major crisis -- the last the Faith was to undergo at its world center -- provoked by the cruel Jamal Pasha, and accentuated by the anxieties of a devastating world war, by the privations it entailed and the rupture of communications it brought about, had threatened with still graver peril the Head of the Faith Himself, as well as the holiest sanctuaries enshrining the remains of its twin Founders. The revelation of the Tablets of thePage 406
Divine Plan, during the somber days of that tragic conflict, had, in the concluding years of Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry, invested the members of the leading Bahá'í community in the West -- the champions of a future Administrative Order -- with a world mission which, in the concluding years of the first Bahá'í century, was to shed deathless glory upon the Faith and its administrative institutions. The conclusion of that long and distressing conflict had frustrated the hopes of that military despot and inflicted an ignominious defeat on him, had removed, once and for all, the danger that had overshadowed for sixty-five years the Founder of the Faith and the Center of His Covenant, fulfilled the prophecies recorded by Him in His writings, enhanced still further the prestige of His Faith and its Leader, and been signalized by the spread of His Message to the continent of Australia.
The sudden passing of Abdu'l-Bahá, marking the close of the Primitive Age of the Faith, had, as had been the case with the ascension of His Father, submerged in sorrow and consternation His faithful disciples, imparted fresh hopes to the dwindling followers of both Mirza Yahya and Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, and stirred to feverish activity political as well as ecclesiastical adversaries, all of whom anticipated the impending dismemberment of the communities which the Center of the Covenant had so greatly inspired and ably led. The promulgation of His Will and Testament, inaugurating the Formative Age of the Bahá'í era, the Charter delineating the features of an Order which the Báb had announced, which Bahá'u'lláh had envisioned, and whose laws and principles He had enunciated, had galvanized these communities in Europe, Asia, Africa and America into concerted action, enabling them to erect and consolidate the framework of this Order, by establishing its local and national Assemblies, by framing the constitutions of these Assemblies, by securing the recognition on the part of the civil authorities in various countries of these institutions, by founding administrative headquarters, by raising the superstructure of the first House of Worship in the West, by establishing and extending the scope of the endowments of the Faith and by obtaining the full recognition by the civil authorities of the religious character of these endowments at its world center as well as in the North American continent.
A severe, a historic censure pronounced by a Muslim ecclesiastical court in Egypt had, whilst this mighty process -- the laying of the structural basis of the Bahá'í world Administrative Order -- was being initiated, officially expelled all adherents of the Faith of Muslim extraction from Islam, had condemned them as heretics and broughtPage 407
the members of a proscribed community face to face with tests and perils of a character they had never known before. The unjust decision of a civil court in Baghdad, instigated by Shi'ah enemies, in Iraq, and the decree issued by a still more redoubtable adversary in Russia had, moreover, robbed the Faith, on the one hand, of one of its holiest centers of pilgrimage, and denied it, on the other, the use of its first House of Worship, initiated by Abdu'l-Bahá and erected in the course of His ministry. And finally, inspired by this unexpected declaration made by an age-long enemy -- marking the first step in the march of their Faith towards total emancipation -- and undaunted by this double blow struck at its institutions, the followers of Bahá'u'lláh, already united and fully equipped through the agencies of a firmly established Administrative Order, had arisen to crown the immortal records of the first Bahá'í century by vindicating the independent character of their Faith, by enforcing the fundamental laws ordained in their Most Holy Book, by demanding and in some cases obtaining, the recognition by the ruling authorities of their right to be classified as followers of an independent religion, by securing from the world's highest Tribunal its condemnation of the injustice they had suffered at the hands of their persecutors, by establishing their residence in no less than thirty-four additional countries, as well as in thirteen dependencies, by disseminating their literature in twenty-nine additional languages, by enrolling a Queen in the ranks of the supporters of their Cause, and lastly by launching an enterprise which, as that century approached its end, enabled them to complete the exterior ornamentation of their second House of Worship, and to bring to a successful conclusion the first stage of the Plan which Abdu'l-Bahá had conceived for the world-wide and systematic propagation of their Faith.
Kings, emperors, princes, whether of the East or of the West, had, as we look back upon the tumultuous record of an entire century, either ignored the summons of its Founders, or derided their Message, or decreed their exile and banishment, or barbarously persecuted their followers, or sedulously striven to discredit their teachings. They were visited by the wrath of the Almighty, many losing their thrones, some witnessing the extinction of their dynasties, a few being assassinated or covered with shame, others finding themselves powerless to avert the cataclysmic dissolution of their kingdoms, still others being degraded to positions of subservience in their own realms. The Caliphate, its arch-enemy, had unsheathed the sword against its Author and thrice pronounced His banishment. It was humbled toPage 408
dust, and, in its ignominious collapse, suffered the same fate as the Jewish hierarchy, the chief persecutor of Jesus Christ, had suffered at the hands of its Roman masters, in the first century of the Christian Era, almost two thousand years before. Members of various sacerdotal orders, Shi'ah, Sunni, Zoroastrian and Christian, had fiercely assailed the Faith, branded as heretic its supporters, and labored unremittingly to disrupt its fabric and subvert its foundations. The most redoubtable and hostile amongst these orders were either overthrown or virtually dismembered, others rapidly declined in prestige and influence, all were made to sustain the impact of a secular power, aggressive and determined to curtail their privileges and assert its own authority. Apostates, rebels, betrayers, heretics, had exerted their utmost endeavors, privily or openly, to sap the loyalty of the followers of that Faith, to split their ranks or assault their institutions. These enemies were, one by one, some gradually, others with dramatic swiftness, confounded, dispersed, swept away and forgotten. Not a few among its leading figures, its earliest disciples, its foremost champions, the companions and fellow-exiles of its Founders, trusted amanuenses and secretaries of its Author and of the Center of His Covenant, even some of those who were numbered among the kindred of the Manifestation Himself, not excluding the nominee of the Báb and the son of Bahá'u'lláh, named by Him in the Book of His Covenant, had allowed themselves to pass out from under its shadow, to bring shame upon it, through acts of indelible infamy, and to provoke crises of such dimensions as have never been experienced by any previous religion. All were precipitated, without exception, from the enviable positions they occupied, many of them lived to behold the frustration of their designs, others were plunged into degradation and misery, utterly impotent to impair the unity, or stay the march, of the Faith they had so shamelessly forsaken. Ministers, ambassadors and other state dignitaries had plotted assiduously to pervert its purpose, had instigated the successive banishments of its Founders, and maliciously striven to undermine its foundations. They had, through such plottings, unwittingly brought about their own downfall, forfeited the confidence of their sovereigns, drunk the cup of disgrace to its dregs, and irrevocably sealed their own doom. Humanity itself, perverse and utterly heedless, had refused to lend a hearing ear to the insistent appeals and warnings sounded by the twin Founders of the Faith, and later voiced by the Center of the Covenant in His public discourses in the West. It had plunged into two desolating wars of unprecedented magnitude, which have deranged its equilibrium, mownPage 409
down its youth, and shaken it to its roots. The weak, the obscure, the down-trodden had, on the other hand, through their allegiance to so mighty a Cause and their response to its summons, been enabled to accomplish such feats of valor and heroism as to equal, and in some cases to dwarf, the exploits of those men and women of undying fame whose names and deeds adorn the spiritual annals of mankind.
Despite the blows leveled at its nascent strength, whether by the wielders of temporal and spiritual authority from without, or by black-hearted foes from within, the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh had, far from breaking or bending, gone from strength to strength, from victory to victory. Indeed its history, if read aright, may be said to resolve itself into a series of pulsations, of alternating crises and triumphs, leading it ever nearer to its divinely appointed destiny. The outburst of savage fanaticism that greeted the birth of the Revelation proclaimed by the Báb, His subsequent arrest and captivity, had been followed by the formulation of the laws of His Dispensation, by the institution of His Covenant, by the inauguration of that Dispensation in Badasht, and by the public assertion of His station in Tabriz. Widespread and still more violent uprisings in the provinces, His own execution, the blood bath which followed it and Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the Siyah-Chal had been succeeded by the breaking of the dawn of the Bahá'í Revelation in that dungeon. Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to Iraq, His withdrawal to Kurdistan and the confusion and distress that afflicted His fellow-disciples in Baghdad had, in turn, been followed by the resurgence of the Bábi community, culminating in the Declaration of His Mission in the Najibiyyih Garden. Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz's decree summoning Him to Constantinople and the crisis precipitated by Mirza Yahya had been succeeded by the proclamation of that Mission to the crowned heads of the world and its ecclesiastical leaders. Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to the penal colony of Akka, with all its attendant troubles and miseries, had, in its turn, led to the promulgation of the laws and ordinances of His Revelation and to the institution of His Covenant, the last act of His life. The fiery tests engendered by the rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his associates had been succeeded by the introduction of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in the West and the transfer of the Báb's remains to the Holy Land. The renewal of Abdu'l-Bahá'í incarceration and the perils and anxieties consequent upon it had resulted in the downfall of Abdu'l-Hamid, in Abdu'l-Bahá'í release from His confinement, in the entombment of the Báb's remains on Mt. Carmel, and in the triumphal journeys undertaken by the Center of the Covenant HimselfPage 410
in Europe and America. The outbreak of a devastating world war and the deepening of the dangers to which Jamal Pasha and the Covenant-breakers had exposed Him had led to the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, to the flight of that overbearing Commander, to the liberation of the Holy Land, to the enhancement of the prestige of the Faith at its world center, and to a marked expansion of its activities in East and West. Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing and the agitation which His removal had provoked had been followed by the promulgation of His Will and Testament, by the inauguration of the Formative Age of the Bahá'í era and by the laying of the foundations of a world-embracing Administrative Order. And finally, the seizure of the keys of the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh by the Covenant-breakers, the forcible occupation of His House in Baghdad by the Shi'ah community, the outbreak of persecution in Russia and the expulsion of the Bahá'í community from Islam in Egypt had been succeeded by the public assertion of the independent religious status of the Faith by its followers in East and West, by the recognition of that status at its world center, by the pronouncement of the Council of the League of Nations testifying to the justice of its claims, by a remarkable expansion of its international teaching activities and its literature, by the testimonials of royalty to its Divine origin, and by the completion of the exterior ornamentation of its first House of Worship in the western world.
The tribulations attending the progressive unfoldment of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh have indeed been such as to exceed in gravity those from which the religions of the past have suffered. Unlike those religions, however, these tribulations have failed utterly to impair its unity, or to create, even temporarily, a breach in the ranks of its adherents. It has not only survived these ordeals, but has emerged, purified and inviolate, endowed with greater capacity to face and surmount any crisis which its resistless march may engender in the future.
Mighty indeed have been the tasks accomplished and the victories achieved by this sorely-tried yet undefeatable Faith within the space of a century! Its unfinished tasks, its future victories, as it stands on the threshold of the second Bahá'í century, are greater still. In the brief space of the first hundred years of its existence it has succeeded in diffusing its light over five continents, in erecting its outposts in the furthermost corners of the earth, in establishing, on an impregnable basis its Covenant with all mankind, in rearing the fabric of its world-encompassing Administrative Order, in casting off many of thePage 411
shackles hindering its total emancipation and world-wide recognition, in registering its initial victories over royal, political and ecclesiastical adversaries, and in launching the first of its systematic crusades for the spiritual conquest of the whole planet.
The institution, however, which is to constitute the last stage in the erection of the framework of its world Administrative Order, functioning in close proximity to its world spiritual center, is as yet unestablished. The full emancipation of the Faith itself from the fetters of religious orthodoxy, the essential prerequisite of its universal recognition and of the emergence of its World Order, is still unachieved. The successive campaigns, designed to extend the beneficent influence of its System, according to Abdu'l-Bahá'í Plan, to every country and island where the structural basis of its Administrative Order has not been erected, still remain to be launched. The banner of Ya Baha'u'l-Abha which, as foretold by Him, must float from the pinnacles of the foremost seat of learning in the Islamic world is still unhoisted. The Most Great House, ordained as a center of pilgrimage by Bahá'u'lláh in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, is as yet unliberated. The third Mashriqu'l-Adhkar to be raised to His glory, the site of which has recently been acquired, as well as the Dependencies of the two Houses of Worship already erected in East and West, are as yet unbuilt. The dome, the final unit which, as anticipated by Abdu'l-Bahá, is to crown the Sepulcher of the Báb is as yet unreared. The codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Mother-Book of the Bahá'í Revelation, and the systematic promulgation of its laws and ordinances, are as yet unbegun. The preliminary measures for the institution of Bahá'í courts, invested with the legal right to apply and execute those laws and ordinances, still remain to be undertaken. The restitution of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world and the recreation of the community that so devotedly reared it, have yet to be accomplished. The sovereign who, as foreshadowed in Bahá'u'lláh's Most Holy Book, must adorn the throne of His native land, and cast the shadow of royal protection over His long-persecuted followers, is as yet undiscovered. The contest that must ensue as a result of the concerted onslaughts which, as prophesied by Abdu'l-Bahá, are to be delivered by the leaders of religions as yet indifferent to the advance of the Faith, is as yet unfought. The Golden Age of the Faith itself that must witness the unification of all the peoples and nations of the world, the establishment of the Most Great Peace, the inauguration of the Kingdom of the Father upon earth, the coming of age of the entire human race and the birth of a world civilization,Page 412
inspired and directed by the creative energies released by Bahá'u'lláh's World Order, shining in its meridian splendor, is still unborn and its glories unsuspected.
Whatever may befall this infant Faith of God in future decades or in succeeding centuries, whatever the sorrows, dangers and tribulations which the next stage in its world-wide development may engender, from whatever quarter the assaults to be launched by its present or future adversaries may be unleashed against it, however great the reverses and setbacks it may suffer, we, who have been privileged to apprehend, to the degree our finite minds can fathom, the significance of these marvelous phenomena associated with its rise and establishment, can harbor no doubt that what it has already achieved in the first hundred years of its life provides sufficient guarantee that it will continue to forge ahead, capturing loftier heights, tearing down every obstacle, opening up new horizons and winning still mightier victories until its glorious mission, stretching into the dim ranges of time that lie ahead, is totally fulfilled.[END]